Rob Gravolet stood in front of a roomful of elementary students, pointing to a large graph behind the podium, and he asked what kind of classes a person might need to take in order to work for NASA.
“Math!” the kids yelled.
Space Days, an event put on by the Science and Technology Education Center to educate children about the cosmos, concluded Thursday after a week of activities.
“NASA tries to do outreach programs as much as we can,” said Gravolet. “I graduated from Tech, so when Space Days started four or five years ago, I was excited to come.”
Sometimes the kids will surprise you with what they ask, said Gravolet, a user integration manager at NASA.
“I’ve had more intelligent questions asked by some of these kids than by the people I work with,” Gravolet said.
He said he had brought samples of hardware NASA uses to build rockets and capsules to let the children hold.
“It intrigues them,” Gravolet said. “They get to see that this is a real thing, that it’s something they can do.”
He said he likes to inform the kids of what they need to do to achieve their goals.
“There’s always at least one kid who wants to work for NASA, or to go to space,” Gravolet said. “I tell them what choices regarding school they will eventually need to take to get on that path.”
Interim director Lindsey Keith-Vincent said the children have a great time while learning and doing experiments.
“It’s a pretty large opportunity for the Tech family to pull together and do something for these kids,” Vincent said. “The kids get an opportunity to explore the museum and conduct experiments that they might not be able to do otherwise.”
Vincent said the community outside of Tech came together to help make Space Days happen.
“We’re really grateful to all the sponsors,” Vincent said. “Without them we would be completely unable to do this.”
Donald Schillinger, the director of assessment and accreditation, said this week his title was just “hot dog cooker.”
“It’s an opportunity for kids to take part in experimental learning,” he said. “They get to interact with college students and experience scientific demonstrations.”
However, Schillinger said Space Days is not just educational.
“We’ve got that big inflatable space shuttle outside, and every time a kid rounds the corner, they just gasp,” Schillinger said. “It’s like a line of little gasps coming around the corner.”
Administrative assistant Laura Murphy said the kids have a blast.
“They get to do all these cool experiments,” Murphy said. “We do one experiment where we mix Alka-Seltzer and water together in this container and they blow up; the kids all love that one.”
Murphy said the kids get a glimpse of college life before most kids have a chance to.
“The kids get demonstrations in the aviation department,” Murphy said. “They get to see the experiences of aviation students. Maybe they’ll remember this when they’re older and looking for colleges.”
Murphy also said she would like the event to make an impression on the kids.
“This is a fun activity for kids, but it’s also a recruiting exercise for Tech,” Murphy said. “We want the kids to see that Tech is fun and have these good memories associated with it, and maybe come back when they’re older.”
Murphy said he could tell the children were having a good time when he saw them on the spaceship inflatable.
Email comments to jts...@latech.edu.