Where Alopecia Takes You

When I had alopecia at first, I didn’t regard it as anything important. Oh cool, I don’t have hair. Yay, no lice. But lately, having alopecia took me to places I never dreamed of before.

On April 23, 2019, I found Kennedy Space Center and Kennedy Space Center found me. High school students from all over the world were invited to take part in the Conrad Challenge, but few got to go to the Innovation Summit as finalists. The Conrad Foundation, led by Nancy Conrad, the widow of Charles “Pete” Conrad, strives to encourage the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in kids 13-18 years old.

The students participating had amazing technologies to bring to the table: one group fielded S.A.F.E (Sound: The Alternative Fire Extinguisher), a portable unit that emitted 60 hertz sound waves to prevent wildfires from spreading. (Here’s what 60 hertz sounds like.) Others made auto-sorting trash cans, phone cases with integrated Epi-Pens, and suits that simulated Earth gravity for astronauts on the Space Station.

I could never match these levels of innovation at my age, and just as well I wasn’t here as a finalist. Nancy Conrad has a mutual friend with Karen Young, the reporter who wrote the article about me for the Ventura Boulevard Magazine here. When Nancy heard about me and my alopecia, she decided to invite me as a VIP guest.

So here I was, the 11-year-old girl with a bag full of peytonpecia business cards and my antique digital camera, feeling out of place on my first day at “The Most Inspiring Place In The Universe”. The first thing you see when you get through the security at Kennedy Space Center is the Heroes and Legends exhibit and Rocket Garden. We all gather under Heroes and Legends, then move to the Atlantis room, where the real Space Shuttle Atlantis is housed, for dinner under the shuttle.

Over the course of four days, we get to see teams do their Power Pitches. There are 6 categories this year: the classic categories, Aerospace & Aviation, Health & Nutrition, Energy & Environment, Cyber-technology & Security, and our sponsors’ categories, Smoke-Free World and Transforming Education Through Technology. There are some amazing inventions pitched to the judging panel, but only one team from each category can claim the title of Conrad Scholar.

During lunch, I conferred with a duo whose project was Protective Eye, a necklace packed with sensors to detect sexual assault attempts, then simultaneously alert the user, the attacker, and the authorities. The brains behind it were high school seniors Dominique and Erica. We came up with a R&D checklist and additional features to enhance safety.

I also was pleasantly surprised. I had come to the Conrad Challenge prepared to give business cards to anyone and everyone I met, and I thought I would be one of the only kids to do so. Turns out, since every kid is the CEO, COO, or founder of something, everybody has a business card. I walked away from the Conrad Challenge with a Rolodex worth of business cards from various Conrad Innovators, as they are officially called. I was also not-so-pleasantly surprised.

The first day, I took amazing photos of Rocket Garden. During dinner, the storage card mysteriously erased itself and deleted all my pictures–and the 200 or so photos of my 3-year-old childhood also stored on the card. I resolved to take better photos, and almost filled up my card.

At the end of the last day, we gathered for dinner and the awards ceremony underneath a real Saturn V rocket. Like all self-respecting tourists, I had brought my camera to the ceremony. We sat with Erica, Dominique, and their engineering elective teacher who happened to be tagging along. Afterwards, while everyone else was dancing under the gargantuan first-stage engines of the massive rocket, I took the chance to wander around the enormous exhibit.

I found a small display case full of space-flown artifacts from the Apollo mission and decided to take some pictures. But wait! I needed to check the storage. It was about 80% full. I went back to the photo-review app, but there was nothing there. Just like the first night, it had auto-deleted. Mom came over and reassured me that the 50 or so pictures she had taken of me were still there. I kept going around the room, telling myself that it was fine, but I couldn’t get around the fact that all my pictures were gone.

Then I found the Treasures Gallery–a hidden room filled with the objects, spacesuits, and a space capsule that all went to the Moon. It just filled me with calm, looking at the checklists, pens, suit concepts, and Apollo 14 command module. There was a corner dedicated to Apollo 13, and I checked that out too. Mom and I went into the Apollo 1 memorial. I forgot all about the pictures and enjoyed the last moments of the amazing week.

So the moral of the story? Alopecia can take you places you’ve never been. All you need to do is embrace it. And make sure you get a better camera than mine once you get to that place. All in all, alopecia is cool. And you might just get to watch people sell other people on extinguishing fires with sound.

P.S. Sorry this post was so long. I just needed to get all that off my shoulders. And seriously, unless you HATE space, you should go to Kennedy Space Center.

Bald Girl In A Big World

One of the most confusing parts of being a bald girl is how others react. For boys it’s a little easier, since men usually lose their hair naturally. Appearances in shopping centers usually result in kids staring at me blankly, not really knowing what to think. Sometimes I like looking at them. I can see the gears in their heads turning, as if to say, “What is this? A bald girl?” Even funnier (and sort of embarrassing) is when they call you a boy. I wrote a post several months ago about instances where people called me a boy (check them out right here) and surprisingly, I’m not alone in this.

I know what you’re thinking: Lots of alopecians exist, Peyton! But in my class there’s a girl, we’ll call her Ellie, who has a twin brother, and both siblings have short “boy” hair. The interesting part is that while we were taking class photos, the photographer was having us shift around on the bleachers. “A little to the right, sir,” he motioned to Ellie, as I shot her a sympathetic look and said, “Now you know how I feel.” The main takeaway of this is that if you have any kind of short hair, you’re going to be called a boy, no matter what gender you are. That isn’t to say you should have long hair though. Just be you. And keep watching those little kids get really, really confused.

I’m Featured!

Today, I am officially featured in the Ventura Boulevard magazine with their article here. In January, I got interviewed by the magazine, and two weeks later I did a photoshoot. Most of my quotes detailing the feeling of my Q&A with Ryan Shazier and my outlook towards being “afflicted” (big air quotes there) with alopecia showed up there, as well as my parents’ views about me. All in all, it was a great story to run (I may be a bit biased here) and I’m grateful for the publicity.

Updates

Since I haven’t been posting in a while (and I mean a while) I thought it would be fitting to catch you up on the major events so far.

Spelling Bee

I made it to the spelling bee once again and lost once again.

Photoshoot

A local magazine came by for their Top Ten Teens list and came across me, even though I’m 11. I had a photoshoot and will be featured on the Ventura Boulevard magazine.

Science Fair

This year, the 6th grade science fair is optional, and I decided to do it. My project is about making concrete out of Martian soil and testing it against normal concrete.

Micromanage Mars!

I’m writing code for a new game called Micromanage Mars! You are the director of Mars operations, and you have to make sure all your meters never reach zero throughout the course of your mission. Throughout the Hab and the greenhouse, experiments, crops, and life support systems beg for your attention. Keep your crew alive and they’ll thank you!

Second Year of Alopecia

As of last weekend, I have had alopecia for two years. It started out as universalis, then dropped to totalis. That means I’m getting closer and closer to hair!

OPI Trip

This hasn’t happened yet, but it will in about two weeks! I’m going to the Olympic Peninsula Institute with the rest of the 6th grade for a week to learn about the forces of nature.

Math Competition

I recently won 7th place in the Math League competition at Mirman School, along with two of my friends who got 9th and 5th place with me.

Swim Meet

In a recent swim meet, I broke all of my personal records in the 50 freestyle, 50 breaststroke, 50 butterfly, and 100 IM.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You…Taller?

I’m officially taller than my mom now. Yay!

Braces

I now have both top and bottom braces in. Hopefully they’ll stay in for two years.

That’s mostly it for the past six months. Well, I hope you enjoyed this post and check out more from peytonpecia.

Alopecia Spotlight: Leah Hayes

Recently, another huge milestone for alopecia youth has come to NAAF in the form of Leah Hayes, who won Sports Kid Of The Year (SKOTY) at Sports Illustrated Kids. The award goes to kids who have shown exceptional sports talent. In Leah’s case, she is an outstanding swimmer. That really surprised me–I know her, and I know that she swims, but I didn’t know that she often laps her opponents in the best heat! While Leah is a much better competitive swimmer than I am, and she’s much older than me, we do have similarities pointing to our alopecia. Both of us love swimming, especially when we don’t need swim caps. The whole purpose of a swim cap is to squish people’s hair in so they are more aerodynamic, but with no hair at all, both of us are faster without a swim cap! When she swims, she is usually faster than everyone, even though she is always in the best heat. That excellence is exactly why she wants to go to the Olympics.

When she swims, she is usually faster than everyone, even though she is always in the best heat.

I think it’s safe to say that this was one good move for SIK.

This story appeared first at sikids.com.

Scratch

If you need a good foundation for block coding and/or want to join Programmers Coding Baldly, this is the website for you. Subscribe to Sprocket today!

Sprocket actually made a typo–the URL is scratch.mit.edu.

 

Sprocket

Scratch, is a computer coding website created by MIT, is great for all levels of block coders. It is fun and easy to do. On scratch there are easy tutorials and on youtube.  There are various types of games, from catch games, to mazes. If you are interested in block coding I would recommend this website. This is the link for Scratch. http://scratch.mit.edu.org

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Programmers Coding Baldly

Hello! I’ve decided to create an alopecia community based on coding in Scratch, the block-coding programming language that has been a hit for anyone who likes to code. It’s called Programmers Coding Baldly, and I’ll be partnering up with Sprocket, run by my friend and colleague Ella, to bring STEM and coding to the world of alopecia. Scratch is a website where you use colored blocks to form code, which you can then run and share to the world. With Scratch, alopecians can get a new kind of courage–one that comes from the knowledge that they don’t have to be Bill Gates or Elon Musk to create something special. My Scratch account is Staria07, and you should definitely check it out. Anyway, I hope you liked this post. Make sure to join Programmers Coding Baldly and check out Sprocket!