Hey, Staffer! Whatcha Geekin’ Out About? (Feat. Torrey Stenmark)

It’s time to get to know another GeekGirlCon staffer! This month, we are talking to Torrey Stenmark, who is an expert in all sorts of geeky endeavors, from gaming to chemistry. Torrey also has some serious skills when it comes to cosplay–she has won numerous awards for her works! Find out about her below.


Who are you and what do you do at GeekGirlCon?

I am Torrey Stenmark, the DIY Science Zone Assistant Manager. I’ve also served on the Programming Selection Committee in past years.

What do you do for your day job/when you’re not being awesome as a GGC staffer?

I teach chemistry (introductory, general, and organic) at Shoreline Community College.

Have you always considered yourself a geek?

At least since college. I’m sure I would have been classified as a geeky or nerdy kid, but I owned the term in college. Back in high school I was a theater kid, which is not quite the same thing.

What sort of geeky things do you like to do in your spare time?

I make and wear science fiction and superhero costumes! I’ve won awards in local and national costume contests. I also volunteer with a couple of costumed charities, in which we dress up to raise money for children’s causes or to visit schools and hospitals. There’s a very special joy in demonstrating to young girls that they can be superheroes too, or showing all kids that they can be both superheroes and princesses.

Torrey winning “Best in Show (Recreation)” at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in 2011 as a Na’vi from the film Avatar. Everything in her costume here is handmade: the base is body paint, with environmentally appropriate materials for the jewelry and the loincloth. The costume also won Best in Show and Best Journeyman Workmanship at Norwescon 2011, and Best Makeup Journeyman at Worldcon. Additionally, Torrey received a Blammy Award from a local costume guild for integration of weaponry into her costume (the longbow contains UV lights to activate the UV reactive paint used for the bioluminescent markings).

What are you currently geeking out about?

Because I just finished a big costume project, my main geeky activity right now is playing Overwatch. It totally counts as costume research, too.

Cool! Tell us why is Overwatch awesome.

Overwatch is a multiplayer team-based first person shooter video game. It’s designed to be friendly and accessible. The characters are diverse along nearly every axis you can think of, they all have different weapon and ability sets, and they all have important roles to play on the team.

Plus, I get to play an Egyptian woman who pilots a rocket-firing suit of armor and yells things like “I am the Rocket Queen!” Totally awesome.

Who do you think would be interested in Overwatch?

If you’ve played FPS games before, you’ll probably like Overwatch. If not, neither had I. I first thought “those characters look so cool!” but didn’t try playing until my friends talked me into it. All you really need is a desire to blow things up and a game console/computer. And if you don’t want to blow things up, you can play a healer and take care of the people doing the damage.

Torrey as Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. This costume won Best Makeup Workmanship Master, Best Choreography, and Presentation Master at Westercon 2012: and “Nailed It” Workmanship Master, Best Choreography, and Presentation Master at Worldcon 2012. (Image credit: Richard Man, image source: Torrey Stenmark)

What other things are you interested in/do you do in your spare time?

I cook sometimes. I learned to cook growing up, and it dovetails nicely with chemistry and chem lab.

I’m also really into space exploration. I have still not entirely given up wanting to be an astronaut when I grow up.

Your cooking skills sound interesting! Can you elaborate on this a bit more?

Well, my parents both taught me to cook all kinds of things. Pasta from scratch, fresh bread, family recipes for cookies and bratwurst, improvised casseroles, all that jazz. Fundamentally cooking is chemistry, and I think the combination of precision and estimation required for a good recipe carries over to chemistry really well. Sometimes you need exactly 5.000 g of a reagent, and sometimes you need enough drying agent to make it work. It’s just like sometimes you need to carefully level your teaspoons and sometimes you add “enough olive oil”. That last is an actual instruction from my family pasta recipe. I also learned to measure liquids at eye level to get a more accurate measurement.

I also use those chem skills to make my costumes. I keep what are basically lab notebooks for all of my costumes, documenting what I’ve done in great detail. My Senator Padmé Amidala gown is hand-dyed. Dyeing is 100% chemistry.

Torrey as Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo. This costume won Best Workmanship Master and Best in Class Master at Norwescon 2012, and Best Dye Job, Workmanship Master and Honorable Mention, and Presentation Master at Worldcon 2015. ©2015 John O’Halloran johno@tyedye.org

How did you get involved with GeekGirlCon?

I’ve attended every GGC since the first one. I saw a mention on the official twitter account that they were putting together some science activities and needed help. I volunteered to help, and after a couple years [DIY Science Zone Project Manager] Raychelle asked me to be the Seattle-based assistant manager of the Zone.

What is your favorite thing about being a staffer for GeekGirlCon?

Being part of this feminist geeky organization is great. I really love making this safe space for my people. The single best thing, though, is watching little kids’ faces light up when they do our science activities. They get so into it and they have so much fun! Some of them already want to be scientists and some of them enjoy making a mess, and either way I love it.

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JC Lau
“Rock On!”

JC Lau

Previously disguised as a college professor and family lawyer, JC Lau is an Australian video game journalist and writer living in Seattle.

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