This rocket scientist is helping people conquer math phobia from her living room
“You have to know what is needed, what you can provide, and what you can do to innovate what is already out there.”
When stay-at-home orders went into effect, live events as we knew them ceased. But this has been a boon for live streaming as musicians, teachers, and others jumped in on the format.
For Olympia LePoint, a former rocket scientist turned author and speaker, our current remote situation prompted her to embark on a new mission: reaching audiences from her living room.
She talks about her transition in the Q&A below.
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Olympia LePoint. I helped launch NASA missions into space for nearly 10 years as a rocket scientist. Now, I am an author, TED Speaker, and science journalist. I educate people in math and science. I show you how to use your brain so you find answers in life.
How have you conducted business in the past?
In the business world, the way to succeed requires the ability to adapt. You have to know what is needed, what you can provide, and what you can do to innovate what is already out there.
In the past, I helped launch rockets in Mission Control. We ensured high-speed internet technology. When I left to start my company, I became an educator through TED — “Reprogramming Your Brain to Overcome Fear” — and I wrote the science self-help books Mathaphobia and Answers Unleashed.
But then, stay-at-home orders began. Life as we knew it came to screeching halt. All live shows ended. As a science entertainer, I had to quickly determine how I could educate in an innovative way. As a scientist who deals with facts and numbers, I had to find a way to ensure that vital information was distributed.
My business changed. Instead of speaking to 6,000-member audiences at global technical forums, I transformed my websites to offer online education. I started giving live keynote talks online. First, it was through AnswersUnleashed.com on how to end implicit bias using science and innovative thinking. Then, I chose to create a math education homeschool to help parents educate their children in math through my website Mathaphobia.com.
What immediate effects did stay-at-home orders have on you?
Stay-at-home orders were tough to handle at first. In fact, I went into a mini depression that I had to grow out of. My mother had recently come out of surgery the day before stay-at-home orders. I fought to ensure we had fresh drinking water and food so my mother could heal. I became truly scared. Then, I realized the truth. I told myself: “You can get through this. And you will find a way to help millions of people from your living room.”
I was tasked with learning how to communicate with others through online video methods. At first, I did not have the best internet nor video capabilities to conduct educational courses. As the weeks progressed, I purchased a new computer, microphones, cameras, whiteboards, and lighting kits to make math education exciting from home.
What changes did you make to adapt to our current situation?
My first change was to make the physical and mental space. I had to remove my fear about the stay-at-home situation and replace it with opportunity. This whole situation is an opportunity to get our lives on a better track. I moved my 70-year-old mother into my home. Instead of going to the gym, I walked around the block nightly. I also bought a mini Pilates machine to strengthen my core muscles. Instead of buying takeout, I cooked healthy food for myself and my mother.
Physical space can also be generated. At first, I had to make room for stay-at home necessities. I had to find a place to keep bottles of water, toilet tissue, and cleaning products. Next, I had to make new space to work on video. I used my bookcase as my backdrop and my dining room table as I appeared on the news and in keynote talks. There are ways to make space for yourself. You can throw out old things. You can dedicate a desk for your students. You can create a Zoom chair for business calls.
What were the challenges in implementing these changes?
Money does not grow on trees, but it is your job to make investments in yourself and your talents, so you generate new money. I bank on myself. I work hard. It was a financial investment to get new internet service, buy cameras, and find microphones and lighting kits. Web cameras were sold out. Lapel microphones were backordered. I chose to use my savings as an investment to produce life changing videos from home that would help many people.
What have been the results?
With this new intent to change the way the world saw science, I created an online homeschool for students to learn math. Enrollment starts this August for September classes. With science news, I reached out to Arianna Huffington. She asked me to contribute as a science writer and author on Thrive Global as a person who could educate and uplift others with science and faith. Then I received a call from CBS News producers to give a half-hour live commentary on the first SpaceX-NASA Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch. Needless to say, my efforts to educate people from home paid off.
What have you learned through adapting to a remote environment?
Remote work can reach more people. I can connect and teach students in the United States, Europe, and places across the world through my website.
What advice do you have for others who are trying to figure out this new way or working?
We are designed to help others. I once thought that just the nurses and doctors could save lives. Then reality was made clear: We each have the ability to save lives by keeping people safe at home and by finding solutions to remote problems. I am helping parents teach math to their children and sharing important science news.
You have a choice. You can either view your current situation as “being trapped.” Or you can wake up every day and say, “God, thank you for my life. Thank you for another day to live. Show me how to positively change my life and people's lives for the better.”
Use this time to launch your new success.