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For Purvis siblings, it’s all about space and so much more

Ben Purvis Jr., far left, and his sister Cyndl, far right, attend an international space-related conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in fall 2021. (Courtesy photo)

PALM BEACH GARDENS — When Ben Purvis Jr. was in third grade, a switch he made in topics for a project seemed innocent enough.

Instead of doing a project about World War II as he initially planned, he opted for space. That little change blossomed into a liftoff for what has become his passion with engineering, space and technology.
So much, in fact, that last year – as a middle school student – he led a presentation to a group of engineers and scientists at the International Astronautical Congress conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, more than 7,000 miles from the family home in Okeechobee. The presentation, which he and the Wolverine CubeSat Development Team at the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens developed, dealt with monitoring space weather in highly technical terms.

The career goal for this young Seminole, as of now, would seem to be out of this world for most people to even consider, but not for Ben, who is in eighth grade.

“I figure the world is turning into a computer, so I might as well jump on it as soon as possible,” he said. “I want to be a computer scientist that codes algorithms that land rocket boosters.”

From left, Cyndl, Shannon and Ben Purvis Jr. are met by a greeter at the airport in Dubai. (Courtesy photo)

Before he’s guiding massive machinery safely back to land, he has his high school and college years ahead, so there’s plenty of time to delve into Python, java scripts, html and the rest of the coding world. His courses at Weiss include honors classes in pre-calculus, language arts and physics.

Ben earned a spot on the Wolverine CubeSat Development Team as a fifth grader. One of the team’s accomplishments was working on the launch of a satellite into space. Ben has been a member for four years; his sister, Cyndl, a seventh grader, has been on the team for about three and a half.

Similar to Ben, Cyndl has opted to tackle tough classes, including Algebra I, chemistry honors and ninth grade language arts.

Space didn’t initially appeal to Cyndl, but the more she attended the banquets, conferences and programs of Ben, the more interested she became.

Cyndl and Ben Purvis Jr. take their first camel rides in Dubai.

The Seminole siblings have attended Florida Space Day multiple times in Tallahassee. The day is aimed at educating legislators about the aerospace industry in Florida. They’ve also been part of the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers, a networking organization for those who work or are interested in missile, space, and range activities.

Cyndl’s career thoughts revolve around doing something with engineering, perhaps in the medical field.
Cyndl participated in the Dubai conference with Ben and about eight other students.

“We were really nervous practicing in the hallway. We were scared that we were going to mess up. It was our first time doing it in a foreign country,” Cyndl said. “I was scared there was going to be a super science guy that knew everything in the world about space and was going to ask a question we didn’t know the answer.”

But the presentation, which lasted about 10 minutes, went smoothly. There were no tough questions
“The first question we were asked: How old are you? It was hilarious,” Ben said. “I guess we had a good enough performance so nobody had any questions based about what we were talking about. So that went well.”

As did the post-conference chatter.

“There were people who went up to our teacher and said how impressed they were that we were getting involved at such a young age,” Ben said.

The Purvis kids visit the world’s tallest building in Dubai. (Courtesy photo)

Time permitted Ben, Cyndl and their mom Shannon, a tribal member, to learn more about Dubai and explore. They went from camel rides in dunes to a visit to the world’s tallest building and dining at Hard Rock Cafe Dubai.

Living in Okeechobee and attending school in Palm Beach Gardens takes dedication not only on the students’ behalf, but also their parents. Shannon said that she and Ben Sr. have sought the best fit for their children to further expand their educational experience, but it comes at a price. The family is together on weekends during the school year, but during the week Shannon and the kids stay at a condo in Jupiter while Ben Sr. remains in Okeechobee for work. Shannon said Ben Sr. sacrifices a lot in order for the kids and Shannon to be in a good spot during the educational journey. That arrangement looks like it could continue for years as Ben and Cyndl reach high school.

Ben has been accepted to FAU High School at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. According to a ranking by Niche last year, FAU High School is the second best public high school in Florida.

A visit to Hard Rock Cafe Dubai has the Purvis siblings feeling right at home. (Courtesy photo)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at