A Virtual Walk Down Memory Lane: My Favorite Zoom Memories


Photo courtesy of Vox ATL

Ashika Srivastava attends a virtual Q&A with CNN reporter Carl Azuz over Zoom

Ashika Srivastava, Editor

As we approach the holiday season, waving goodbye to Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and  hello to Christmas and Kwanzaa (and any other non-mainstream holidays occurring around this time that I missed), I’ve been thinking a lot about everything that I am grateful for. And amidst the usual suspects of family, friends, good health, and education, I found something on my list that definitely would not have been there if you had asked me last year or even a couple of months ago: Zoom.

What I used to find annoying and tiresome soon became my personal recording device and conference room. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing because I could always tune in to a meeting or attend a presentation in my pajamas and from the comfort of my own home.  I’ve been able to interact with certain people and attend far-off events, which I probably would not have been able to do in an in-person setting.

One of my favorite experiences this year that I’ve been able to participate in through Zoom was a summer research program with NASA and the Texas Space Grant Consortium. Although there was COVID and we couldn’t travel to the actual space center in Texas, I was able to work on real research projects with my research team and attend virtual presentations with NASA scientists and astronauts like astronaut Fred Haise, who was the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 13 mission, and Jerry Ross, the first person to be launched into space seven times.

They even gave us a virtual tour of one of the meteorite/impact labs where researchers simulate meteorite activity on different rockets and space shuttles in order to build them to withstand conditions in space. One of the scientists walked around the laboratory with his laptop, and we all watched from our screens at home. The program taught me so much about research, earth and space science, and just being flexible whenever things go wrong (as they often do with technology) and when working with others who may not be physically there with you. It was such a cool experience, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all the people in charge of facilitating the program and, of course, Zoom.

Related to that experience: something else I have been able to do through Zoom over the past year is attend and present at various science research conferences. They are usually organized on various conferencing platforms like Hopin and eventPower, but most of the actual keynote sessions, speeches, and presentations occurred through Zoom meetings. This has been a great way for me to present to people and meet other high schoolers from all over the country.

Additionally, since I did not have to physically stand in front of people and present my project, my nerves remained relatively calm as I shared my screen in an individual breakout room. I feel like this concept of virtual science conferences could be really beneficial to international presenters or just speakers who are not able to travel to the in-person conference. I was definitely able to save a lot of time and money, and I was still able to be a part of the conference activities.

Saving the best for last, my favorite Zoom experience to this day was a Q & A I  attended with one of the most important figures of my career as a sixth-grade social studies student. In other words, I (virtually) met Carl Azuz! For those who aren’t familiar with the legend himself, Carl Azuz hosts CNN 10 which is a short ten-minute segment of CNN where he recaps daily events in global news for younger audiences. We used to watch his segment every day back in sixth grade, and I still watch some episodes when I need a brief refresher on the news.

The experience of talking to him was completely surreal, and I was so impressed with how nice and inspirational he was. He spoke about his journey in journalism, how he got involved with CNN, challenges with catering world news to a younger group, and how he adapted his show when the world shut down due to the pandemic. Overall, it was great to just learn more about him and what it’s like to have a career in journalism.

These are just some of the experiences that I’ve been able to have because of Zoom and the introduction of video-conferencing in general. Of course, there were always times when frequent screen glitches and microphone mishaps made my Zoom experiences a little rough. And let’s not forget about the countless controversies associated with the platform regarding privacy, and the year and a half in virtual school where we all spent a little too much time in the virtual space. That was rough. But putting that aside, Zoom has allowed me to try new things, meet amazing people (virtually of course), and learn so much more about our world. It’s really made the past year and a half much more interactive, and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store for us in the future.