Kids learn about mom, dad’s work at NASA Armstrong

NASA photograph by Lauren Hughes

Evan Soukup, Brian Soukup, Jackson Soukup, Austin Miller and Travis Evans take time out for a photo.

Izadel “Izzy” Rosas sits in the cockpit of the F/A-18, grabs a hold of the control stick and smiles.

While 4-year-old Izzy is a little young for the rigors of flying a high performance jet, she is not too young to be inspired by the science, technology, engineering and mathematics that enables flight research.

During a Sons and Daughters to Work Day recently at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, children were invited to fly simulators and learn about life support pressure suits for high-altitude flight. They also engaged in educational activities like an exhibit that enabled attendees to see what it was like repowering the International Space Station.

A robotics demonstration from the Gryffingear award-wining robot built and operated by students of the Palmdale Aerospace Academy also attracted attention. Other exhibits including watching room-temperature water boil to demonstrate high altitude challenges and an opportunity to learn more about what mom and dad do at work.

“The kids hear us talk about what we do at work, but this gives them an opportunity to see the hardware and have hands-on experiences that will help them make connections to what they see here with science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Nils Larson, an Armstrong parent and lead pilot.

Cooper Larson, a fourth grader, gravitated to a robotics display.

Mera Burton, left, and Maria Caballero help inspire young minds with an interactive education exhibit.

“I liked controlling and trying to get the balls in the tube,” he said. He is also a For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League Junior Challenge participant.

Nils Larson explained to his son the science and engineering as to the water pushed on a piston using hydraulics to make the arm move to meet the goal of dropping the balls into a tube.

Gabi Joffe, a 10th grader, said she liked seeing all the different exhibits and learning about them. She was particularly impressed that the Prandtl-D remotely piloted glider is so lightweight. The aircraft is the first of its kind that features a new method for determining the shape of the wing with a twist that could lead to a revolution in aircraft design and efficiency.

Howard Joffe, her father and Armstrong employee, said he appreciated the opportunity to show his daughter about the Armstrong work and “maybe do this kind of work. She is interested in what we do here.”

Alexis Jensen, an eighth grader, took pride in helping her father Red Jensen set up the display of remotely piloted aircraft with her siblings Cate, Jack and Ryan.

“I helped put the wing on,” she said pointing to a large, red Super Cub aircraft.

Part of the Sons and Daughters to Work Day was an opportunity to “fly” in an aircraft simulator.

“They always ask what I do,” said Red Jensen, who is the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems chief pilot and master technician for the Dale Reed Subscale Flight Research Lab. “I work with airplanes, but they had a chance to see for themselves in greater depth. It now is more tangible for them what I do.”

Robert Brenizer, a recent high school graduate who aspires to be a future intern at Armstrong, was most impressed with the Prototype-Technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft (PTERA). PTERA is a versatile remotely piloted flying laboratory aircraft that is bridging the gap between wind-tunnel experiments and full-scale flight testing.

“It is really cool that the PTERA is constructed from carbon fiber,” he said. “Carbon fiber makes sense because it is strong and light weight. I was really intrigued by the PTERA because I am interested in all things aviation from designing to building and flying.”

Children experienced jobs with focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics and perhaps one day some of them will follow in mom or dad’s footsteps.