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Glenn Gives Kids an Inside Look at NASA
More than 450 kids were the envy of their playgrounds this summer after spending a day at the NASA Glenn Research Center. The lucky youngsters participated in the Center's annual "Take Our Children to Work Day."

Events began in the auditorium with a skit about the Wright Brothers, the Ohio visionaries who built the first working airplanes. Aeronautical Engineer Tom Benson and Summer Faculty Roger Storm dressed as Wilbur and Orville Wright and used models, photographs and computer simulations to teach children the physics of flight.

Children learn about the Wright Brothers' planeImage left: Tom Benson shows two children a model of the Wright Brothers' 1903 plane. The plane's wings were made with wood spars and wires. Pulling on the wires changed the shape of the wings, providing roll control for the craft. Credit: NASA

Throughout the day, parents and kids visited various NASA Glenn facilities for live demonstrations. Some of the children's favorites included a wind tunnel, where engineers test aircraft components, and a flight simulator, where kids practiced flying and landing an aircraft much like grown-up pilots do.

At the 2.2 second drop tower, 7-year-old Dominic Westfall yelled, "Do it again! Do it again!" after engineers dropped a fluid experiment down the tower shaft.

Used for reduced gravity experiments since the mid-1960s, the facility allows scientific experiments to free-fall for 2.5 seconds. As they fall, the experiments are weightless, much like the astronauts and equipment that travel in space. Dominic and the other kids were especially impressed by the loud boom the experiment made as it landed.

Children watch demonstration in Imaging Technology CenterImage right: In the Imaging Technology Center, Scientific Image Specialist Vincent Reich shows kids the equipment he uses to create virtual reality images. Credit: NASA

Meanwhile at the Visitor Center, Information Technology Specialist Barbara Cotton discussed the importance of setting goals and reaching them.

"She taught us that you should always have a goal in life," said Olivia Thompson. "And if you have a goal, you should never quit trying."

The 12-year-old spent the day with her father Orlando Thompson, who serves as a Community Relations Specialist. Even after visiting the drop tower and watching a presentation on solar cells, Olivia and her older sister, Yolanda, were most intrigued by their own dad's career.

"If I worked here, I'd like to do what my dad does," Yolanda said. "He gets to go new places all the time and see all kinds of cool stuff."

According to Equal Opportunity Specialist Cynthia Watson, that is exactly what the day was all about. "We wanted to expose children to the many careers available at NASA and to show them what their parents do."

This was the 12th year that NASA Glenn invited employees' children to spend a day at the Center exploring the world of science and technology. Started in 1993 as "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," the event gives boys and girls ages 9 to 15 the opportunity to learn about their parents and grandparents' careers.

More Information:
Would you like to visit NASA Glenn? See our schedule of tours and events.

Jan Wittry (SGT, Inc.)
NASA's Glenn Research Center