Blue Origin Engineers Score Big with STEM Outreach
Brothers from Colombia, Camilo and Sebastian Tobacia grew up with limited exposure to STEM career opportunities. Today, they are both aerospace engineers with an unwavering passion for exploring space, playing soccer, and giving back to their community.
At Blue Origin, they build New Shepard’s crew capsules to take astronauts to space and return them to Earth with a new perspective on why Earth needs space. When they aren’t working on the manufacturing floor at Blue’s Kent headquarters facility, they turn their attention toward another passion – competitive soccer. Drawing from their life experiences and their love of the game, they connect with today’s youth and inspire them to become tomorrow’s space leaders.
To further their mission, the brothers founded Space United in 2014, a soccer club featuring players from space companies including Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Boeing. Their goal: to encourage kids to pursue careers in STEM and increase diversity in the space industry. Space United competes in leagues from Seattle, Los Angeles and Colombia. Camilo and Sebastian want to grow that footprint with more Space United teams in other states like Florida, Alabama, and Texas where the burgeoning space industry has a concentration of space workers.
“Latinos in the United States account for about 20 percent of the total population, yet only about seven percent pursue STEM careers,” said Camilo. “We grew up with humble means in Colombia and we understand the existing lack of minority role models and access to STEM resources. We are uniting space and soccer as a powerful force of inspiration.”
Under the brothers’ leadership, Space United has been an active supporter of Club for the Future through tireless volunteer outreach as STEM Ambassadors. They led the translation of the Club’s “Postcards to Space” resources into Spanish to better reach Hispanic and Latino communities. For Blue Origin’s First Human Flight in July 2021, Space United collaborated with Colombian artist Soy Fira to create a custom “Soccer on Mars” postcard featuring her recognizable one-trace technique.
During summer 2021, Space United organized a live event in collaboration with volunteers from New Gutierrez, one of Blue Origin’s employee resource groups, to support and grow the Hispanic, Latino, and Latin-descent community at Blue Origin. The first Space & Soccer Plaza held in Seattle featured a pre-game event filled with robotics, science booths, “Postcards to Space” workshops, Museum of Flight artifacts, and STEM resources. Hundreds of attendees took part in the activities and then cheered on the Space United team as they took the field.
As the team has grown, they sought to broaden Space United’s impact and created Goal for Launch, a community outreach foundation that specifically targets and inspires underrepresented youth to pursue careers in STEM. To date, Goal for Launch has already reached more than 12,000 students to galvanize a new wave of diversity in the space industry.
Throughout the pandemic, Camilo and Sebastian haven’t missed a beat as they’ve continued inspiring students through virtual visits in Dubai, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, and the United Kingdom through school presentations and by delivering Spanish-based space exploration content.
In sum, the Tobacia brothers are nothing short of STEM superheroes. Club for the Future salutes these outstanding humans for their commitment to STEM education and increasing diversity in the space industry workforce.