TEMPE, AZ — A 12-year-old genius is going to ASU this summer for mechanical engineering, a step toward her ultimate dream of working at NASA as an engineer.
Alena Analeigh was in Phoenix Thursday to encourage other young kids to study STEM at an event with Valley Metro's Engineers of the Future.
Alena Analeigh said she's been reaching for the stars for as long as she can remember.
"I would stay out until midnight looking at the stars wondering 'What's out there?' she said. "It's always been just a dream to explore out there."
Around the age of 4, she started building with Legos, challenging sets, like the Taj Mahal, castles, and the Millennium Falcon.
"I love robotics, piecing stuff together," said Alena. "Making creations you didn't think were possible."
"Once I saw the gift in her, I made sure that, I started taking her to different NASA centers," said her mother Daphne McQuarter.
She was homeschooled and advanced quickly. She had made up her mind that she would work for NASA as an engineer.
"Through my whole life, no matter what," said Alena.
It's that dedication that got her to this point. Alena --who lives in Texas-- recently graduated high school. The director of NASA's Langley Research Center Clayton Turner was there and has become her mentor.
"It's kinda exciting because I'm like, I never knew I was going to have a mentor that works at NASA," said Alena.
Alena planned to take summer classes at ASU before transferring to another school in Alabama, where she plans to earn both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees and become the youngest intern at NASA.
However, recently, ASU, Desert Financial Credit Union, and the Phoenix Mercury surprised Alena with a scholarship that will cover four years of her tuition. So now, she plans on becoming a Sun Devil.
"I want to build rovers, help build maybe even a spaceship one day," said Alena.
Alena also created the Brown STEM Girl Foundation to help encourage and support girls in STEM.
"It doesn't matter who you are, it just matters what you can bring to the table," said Alena.
Alena said for fun she loves to build Legos and bake with her mom.
Editor's note: Our story has been updated to include information that Alena plans to attend ASU, and not transfer, after receiving a four-year scholarship.