Space Day attracts children interested in science to the Capitol

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Mark Esslinger of the Austin Amateur Radio Club assists students with a solar powered telescope during NASA Day on Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol. 

Photo Credit: Becca Gamache | Daily Texan Staff

NASA hosted Space Day at the Capitol on Tuesday to publicize the future of continued space exploration and educate students and children. 

The event included robotics demonstrations, space vehicles and hands-on activities including straw rockets and hover crafts. Space Day featured an interactive exhibit called Driven to Explore, which allowed visitors to touch a piece of the moon and explore current space endeavors. 

“We want to show the public that just because we aren’t going anywhere in space, we still have a lot going on,” said Ashle Robinson, a spokeswoman for Johnson Space Center. “This is a time to salute and celebrate space exploration.”

Robinson said the purpose of the event, which included a nationally traveling exhibit, was to expose people to Texas Aerospace Scholars. The program has representatives from community colleges, high schools and middle schools. To participate in the program, students are nominated by a state legislator then scholars spend time at the Johnson Space Center working with science and technology.

“It’s important to engage kids in NASA and get them excited,” said Katelyn Wamsted, program director of Girlstart. “Getting kids to play and think outside the box will help in motivating them to explore fields in [science, technology, engineering and math].”

Girlstart, Girls Inc. and Girl Scouts raised awareness for the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering during Space Day. 

Mechanical engineering senior Kaitlynn Hall said events that encourage students to pursue science and engineering majors are beneficial regardless of gender, however girls have become the target audience to reach because of their low representation.

“In grades four, five and six girls begin to lose interest in [science, technology, engineering and math] fields,” Hall said. “Girls need to get excited and know that they can do it.”

Although events such as the one held at the Capitol are key in helping students become encouraged in areas of science, Hall said the public needs to always encourage science and engineering. If others think engineers are nerds, then children may be turned off from pursing a career such as engineering, Hall said.

“The public needs to stop conforming to typical stereotypes — such as engineers are nerds,” Hall said. “They need to focus on capability and the innovative things that come out of engineering.”

Published on March 20, 2013 as "NASA educates at Capitol".