Eagle Aims to Leave Legacy as an Engineer and Entrepreneur

Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba (’20, ’21) has a simple goal in life: She wants to write her name “in the sands of time.”

Aerospace Engineering student Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba ('20, '21)
Enrolling at Embry-Riddle allowed Wanjiku Kanjumba ('20, '21) to apply for Project PoSSUM and become a Scientist-Astronaut candidate graduate tasked with helping study the global climate. (Photo: Wanjiku Kanjumba)

Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba (’20, ’21) has a simple goal in life: She wants to write her name “in the sands of time.”

Kanjumba is well on her way to doing just that. Armed with a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, she also is the first Kenyan graduate of the prestigious Project PoSSUM scientist-astronaut program and co-founder of a company called Vicillion, a new project development and engineering firm functioning as a technology research and development lab.

Not too bad for someone who just turned 25. But Kanjumba has worked hard to accomplish so much in so little time.

“If you live with limitations on yourself, you won’t accomplish much, but the world is your oyster if you put no limits,” she said in an interview on the Space in Africa website. “Take a chance on yourself; you are capable of a lot more than you think.”

Kanjumba, raised by her mother after her dad died of cancer when she was 12, has always had a passion for spaceflight and figuring out how things work. It seemed only natural that she would pursue Aerospace Engineering and follow her older brother to Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus.

Enrolling at Embry-Riddle also allowed her to apply for Project PoSSUM (which stands for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) and become a Scientist-Astronaut candidate graduate tasked with helping study the global climate.

Through PoSSUM, Kanjumba’s Embry-Riddle experience included comprehensive spacesuit training, high-altitude and hypoxia awareness training, and aerospace physiology training with world-champion aerobatic pilot Patty Wagstaff.

“Project PoSSUM was relatively new at the time, and not many people had graduated from their academy,” she said. “It was a dream come true.”

With one dream down, Kanjumba has rolled right into the next by helping start Vicillion, which she says is “a technology research and development lab. We are avid problem-solvers.”

Kanjumba said her Embry-Riddle experience was invaluable to helping her get started as an entrepreneur.

“Interacting with a large diverse student body helped me appreciate the potential and capabilities we have as a species. We all have a story to tell and something that drives us – and when we work together, we can accomplish the impossible,” she said. “The curriculum also helped me sharpen my problem-solving and analytical skills, which have and will continue to help when functioning at Vicillion.”

The doors opened by Embry-Riddle have left a lasting impression on Kanjumba.

“Embry-Riddle offers a lot of opportunities outside classes for people to experience something new,” she said. “It has an expansive array of events, clubs, and organizations to join. For example, doing Project PoSSUM on-campus was an amazing experience, and also being able to join seven honor societies that helped leverage my commitment to others and my academics.”

As a female engineer and entrepreneur, Kanjumba is hoping to pave the way for more women to pursue STEM careers, something she says Vicillion will actively work to promote. She also wants to set a special example with her own actions.

“I live mainly by one mantra – don’t live in regret,” Kanjumba said. “I don’t want to look back at my life with any “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” We only get one chance, make it count, and test your limits – unleash your potential and leave something behind that you’ll be proud you accomplished before you leave this world.”