Kim de Groh and Mary S. Feik to Receive 2013 Katharine Wright Award

The National Aeronautic Association announced that Kim de Groh and Mary S. Feik will receive the prestigious Katharine Wright Trophy in recognition of their remarkable careers in aviation.

Washington, DC, August 12, 2013 – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced that Kim de Groh and Mary S. Feik will receive the prestigious Katharine Wright Trophy in recognition of their remarkable careers in aviation.

The trophy is presented annually to a woman who has contributed to the success of others or made a personal contribution to the advancement of the art, sport and science of aviation and space flight over an extended period of time.  The trophy was named in honor of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s sister, Katharine, who was a crucial supporter of her brothers’ timeless work in the development of the first airplane.  The trophy is administered by NAA in partnership with The Ninety-Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots.

Kim de Groh, a Senior Materials Research Engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, is being honored for her tireless efforts in mentoring young women for over two decades and for her numerous technical achievements in the advancement of materials durability in the space environment.

De Groh is an internationally renowned technical leader in areas relating to the environmental durability of spacecraft materials through experiments in space and ground-laboratory tests.  She is the principal investigator for 13 International Space Station (ISS) flight experiments, and has developed ground-to-space correlation techniques to improve the accuracy of ground-laboratory testing.  Her research has directly impacted the Hubble Space Telescope, the ISS, and has influenced spacecraft material design choices made by NASA, the Department of Defense, and our nation’s aerospace industry.  

Since 1998, in a unique project at NASA, de Groh has been the on-site mentor and team leader for young women working as part of a research group called the PEACE (Polymer Erosion and Contamination Experiment) Team.  In this collaboration, students from Hathaway Brown School for girls conduct long-term research at NASA.  The team works on a series of spaceflight experiments, flown on the exterior of the ISS as part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (which studies the durability of spacecraft materials in the space environment).  Under de Groh’s guidance, PEACE Team students have entered their NASA research in prestigious national and international fairs, including the Siemens Math Science and Technology Competition and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  The impact of de Groh’s mentoring and on young women considering entering technical fields has been impressive - over 50 percent of the PEACE Team girls have pursued degrees in science, engineering or math fields.

Mary S. Feik pioneered aviation maintenance during World War II, and for over 60 years has worked in aviation, promoted aerospace education, and inspired generations of our nation’s youth. 

After overhauling her first automobile engine for her father when she was just 12 years old, Feik turned to aircraft engines and then military aircraft maintenance.  In 1942, at the age of 18, she obtained a contract as a civilian and taught aircraft maintenance to crew chiefs and mechanics for the U.S. Army Air Corps.  At the time, there were no other women mechanics, or crew for that matter, working with the Air Corps. 

During WWII, Feik became an expert on many military aircraft and is credited with becoming the first woman engineer in research and development in the Air Technical Service Command’s Engineering Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.  She flew more than 6,000 hours as a pilot in fighter, attack, bomber, cargo and training aircraft.

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