Monday, March 23, 2009

Community Outreach and NASA Trip

One of the fun (and exhausting) parts of my job is going on quarterly community outreach days with students. The Wednesday before Spring Break I took this fabulous group of 8th grade girls to the fire safety department here in McKinney and they stuffed fire safety awareness bags, put together community fire school binders and sorted fireman pants (I had to explain to them that guys pants were sized differently than girls... they were very confused!) :)

Then on Thursday I was at the school at 5:45 to head off to NASA in Houston with the entire 8th grade. We made record time down to Houston and since it was raining out outdoor plans got changed to indoors and I got to wow my students with my bowling score of 45. After plenty of bowling, pizza, laser tag and glow golf we went to NASA where one of our teachers (Colonel Bellue - he was a meteorologist there for 20+ years and, as I learned throughout the trip, somewhat of a legend there) was able to get us into several places that they don't typically allow the public including Mission Control for the International Space Station. Now, I'm not at all into "space" and all that that entails, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless. The picture below is of the Space Station Mission control and the picture on the right is actually a live picture from the International Space Station and on the screen on the far right is an astronaut doing something (that's the technical term for it. hehehe):
International Space Station Mission Control:
After a tour of both mission controls (the one for the space station and the one for the rocket) and a tour of the meteorology department the kids got a special treat and were allowed to visit the Apollo Era Mission Control (like from Apollo 13). This was the actual place where those missions were controlled from (random fact that I learned: the Apollo missions were run on less memory than 1 digital picture... crazy!)
Later in the evening the students were split into groups at NASA's "overnight" program where they participated in several hands on activities like building a lunar rover our of legos, designing the next mars lander and constructing a robotic arm. The picture below is of one of the groups and their robotic arm... I'm not quite sure what they were doing, but this is pretty much what junior high students devolve to after a 5 hour bus ride, several hours of tours where they have to be quiet, pounds and pounds of candy and a package of monster drinks :)
We wrapped things up at NASA and concluded our evening with a stop at Ben and Jerry's and a quick devotional. Then I had the pleasure of spending several hours chatting and playing cards with the 4 girls in my hotel room... so fun! :)
The next morning was freezing cold and pouring rain, but we drug ourselves onto the tram tour back at NASA where we got to see the Houston 5 Rocket (in the picture below), the astronaut training center and a couple of other things.
After lunch our last stop of the day was at the Neutral Buoyancy lab - a HUGE indoor pool with a model of parts of the space staion submerged in it. The astronauts get in their space suits and go under the water to practice the job that they're going to have to perform when they do their space walks.
Anyway, I hope that ya'll enjoyed your mini-tour of NASA :)

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