[image-62]Last week was Mad Scientist Week at Hermosa Heights Elementary for a summer program "enrich the kids." And, yes, NASA White Sands Test Facility's veteran employee George Aldrich took the bait when Program Director Angie Montes asked him to present again for the third year in a row. Not only that, but Ms. Montes also coerced George into conducting the Third Annual Hermosa Heights Elementary Smelly Sneaker Contest.
George has never been one to turn down a stinky sneaker contest or a chance to prove he is one crazy guy for science, anyway, so Ms. Montes didn't have to wait too long for her answer. George showed up at Hermosa Heights Elementary School on Friday July 22nd, 2011, where he persuaded approximately 40 kids into being interested in his space experiments.
[image-78] "I demonstrated my experiments with all the usual things…..deflated a balloon in liquid nitrogen (LN2), created a trick ping pong ball by submersing it in LN2, pulled a vacuum on an inflated balloon until it popped, pulled a vacuum on marshmallows until they became huge, one marshmallow alone could feed all the kids, and then pulled a vacuum on shaving cream, until it expanded and filled the Bell Jar Dome lid," said George.
That doesn't sound crazy. George's demonstrations with LN2 have shown students how ordinary earth materials will react in the vacuum and cold temperatures of space, without ever having to leave earth. But wait, what about the stinky sneaker contest?
"Well," George replied, "luckily the sneakers weren't too bad…..I got down to 3 smelly ones, had a smell off and one lucky boy won!"
My secret analysis: we're the lucky ones; we don't have to smell this stuff.
"I'm now qualified to be a Mad Scientist!" George quipped, after the event. "It's all in good learning fun."
George has worked at the NASA White Sands Test Facility since 1974, has conducted 851 smell missions for NASA throughout his career, was awarded a Silver Snoopy, and has volunteered tirelessly as a Science Advisor in the public schools, but rarely exhibits the 'Mad Scientist" moods at work, fortunately for his coworkers. NASA White Sands Test Facility, located near Las Cruces, NM has tested materials and components, and rocket engines from Skylab to International Space Station missions as well as for other customers.