WTOP Top Kid: McLean teen helps others aim for the stars

Ronit Kapur and another astronomy-loving friend. (Courtesy Ronit Kapur)
Now through Oct. 27, 2023, WTOP is accepting nominations for the WTOP TOP Kids program sponsored by Northwest Federal Credit Union. In addition to being featured on-air and online, winning kids also get a chance at $500.

For Ronit Kapur of McLean, Virginia, it was reading space atlases at a young age that ignited his interest in the great beyond. The fascination only grew as he visited exhibits at area museums and spent time staring at the star-filled night sky.

“That sort of created the snowball effect of my interest in astronomy. And it’s taken me to where I am now,” Kapur told WTOP.

Now in his final year at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, the 17-year-old is hoping to help other students who might not have had the opportunity to further explore the out-of-this-world subject.

“I realized that a lot of students are interested in space, but do not necessarily have the resources to sort of talk about their interest and get in contact with experts who can help guide them further,” Kapur said.

In comes Space Summit DC, the one-day event at the University of Maryland College Park — an event Kapur is spearheading. The goal is to give high school students from all over the D.C. area the opportunity to come together and not only talk about space with each other, but also learn from and connect with professional academics, scientists and those involved in the space field in the federal and private sector.

17-year-old Ronit Kapur teaching an astronomy class abroad. (Courtesy Ronit Kapur)

The event will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, and will include talks on exploring the night sky, the latest developments in the space sector and a look at what the future holds for space exploration. Speakers include space and astronomy experts from several colleges and NASA.

Kapur said after this years event he hopes to pass the torch on to other students who can make it a yearly tradition.

As for his future, he believes once he graduates his career will be in something space-related, such as a researcher, but he hasn’t ruled out becoming an astronaut.

“I’m open to that possibility as well,” Kapur said.

For his work opening doors for other high schoolers who share his passion for space, Kapur has been named a finalist for WTOP’s TOP Kid program. That recognition comes with a $500 prize.

Kapur said he plans to use the money toward a new telescope.

“I’d love to use [the telescope] in star parties and other community events both from my school’s astronomy club and via the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club,” he said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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