Special to Iredell Free News

Olivia Roach, daughter of John and Tamara Roach of Statesville, was recently awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Perdue Farms.

She received one of 15 scholarships given this year to children of Perdue associates and independent contract farmers. Winners were selected based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community involvement.

Olivia Roach

Olivia will attend North Carolina State University at Raleigh to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. She graduated first in her class at Statesville High School with a grade-point average of 4.0

Olivia was co-captain of her high school swim team and girls cross country team and was vice president of the student council.

She has an avid curiosity about outer space.

“My grandmother’s cousin Mike Smith died in the Challenger explosion in 1986,” she said. “She spoke of him often when I was younger and of his work in the space industry. These stories piqued my curiosity about space.

“I am also strong in math and science, with a keen interest in furthering the positive impact the space industry’s research has on Earth’s everyday life,” Olivia added.

NASA operates more than a dozen locations in the United States and one of Olivia’s career aspirations is to join a team at one or more of those sites.

“By being part of one of these teams, I will have the opportunity to contribute to furthering our knowledge, efficiency and safety of space travel,” she said. “However, it is also the opportunity to apply that new knowledge to everyday life here on Earth. I would be part of something much bigger than myself.”

The AMES Research Center in California is the location whose work most intrigues Olivia.

“The AMES Research Center is home to the world’s largest wind tunnel and the hub for all space travel re-entry research and testing,” she said. “The center also leads the nation in a research initiative to devise the best ways for commercial drones, flying cars and aircraft to share our skies safely.

“The center is building the foundation for a future where drones are a part of our daily lives and economy – making deliveries, performing inspections, aiding emergency rescues.”

Drone technology particularly resonates with Olivia because of recent events near her.

“One incident occurred in November 2019, when a storm brought unprecedented rain to our region in a short amount of time, with little warning,” she said. “The 10 inches of rain washed out five bridges and created flash floods and sinkholes. It completely wiped out a local RV community, sweeping over 35 residents downstream and killing five.

“The results of this storm may have been different if the drone technology developed by the AMES Research Center had been available to this community,” Olivia said. “The rescue workers may have been able to minimize the deaths and injuries resulting from the storm using drones.

“After this tragedy, this county’s Sheriff’s Department prioritized the funding to purchase a $34,000 drone. Fast forward to just last week, and this community utilized its newly purchased drone to find and save the life of a 78-year-old man lost for days in thick underbrush. Images from the drone show the rescue workers passing within feet of the man multiple times without spotting him,” she said. “The drone technology saved his life.

“I aspire to be part of this future positive impact for the world and my local community.”

About the Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation

The Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Perdue Farms, was established in 1957 by company founder Arthur W. Perdue and is funded through the estates of Arthur W. Perdue and Frank Perdue. As part of our belief in supporting the communities where and with whom we do business, the Foundation provides grants on behalf of Perdue Farms in communities where large numbers of our associates live and work. At Perdue Farms, we believe in responsible food and agriculture.