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12-year-old prodigy set to begin path to becoming NASA engineer at ASU

TEMPE, Ariz. — A 12-year-old whiz kid is getting ready to start college at Arizona State University with dreams of working for NASA.

She makes it sound easy.

“I just had a goal I wanted to get to,” said Alena Wicker. Her goal is to work for NASA as an engineer.

“I always dreamed of being an engineer because throughout my life I liked the building,” said Wicker.

She realized her passion when she started building LEGOS.

“At four years old she said I’m going to work at NASA,” said her mother Daphne McQuarter.

“I’m kind of a nerd for the NASA-sized Legos,” said Wicker.

The prodigy finished high school this year after acing her homeschool classes. She will start ASU classes in the summer.

“She just had a gift for numbers and Lego and science so I started nurturing that gift,” said McQuarter.

Wicker’s mom says her child was born gifted.

Wicker will be majoring in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry. If all goes well, she’ll be done with college at 16.

“I’ll be driving in one of those future space mobiles by the time that I graduate college,” said Wicker.

“Her goal is to, by the age of 16, be working for NASA,” said McQuarter.

Alena’s goal is to build rovers like the one sent to Mars in the perseverance mission.

“I’m just planning it all as I go. It doesn’t matter what your age or what you’re planning to do. Go for it, dream, then accomplish it,” said Wicker.

Alena is also working on building her passion online. She has a podcast in the works.