2005: A children's odyssey

By Emilie H. Wheeler
The Herald Journal
July 8, 2005

Meegan M. Reid/Herald Journal
Aubrey Shinault, 4, covers her ears as Paul Mueller lights up the "sausage rocket" during a rocket demonstration at the Space Dynamics Lab on Thursday. The SDL hosted a family day, where kids could come to the lab and see what their parents do at work.

Space Dynamics Lab gives opportunity to explore what parents do at work each day

After Thursday, kids whose parents work at the Utah State University Research Foundation might understand a little more of what their parents do between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day.

In the second annual bring-your-family-to-work day, Space Dynamics Lab and Research Foundation employees got to show and teach their kids and spouses a little of how things work. The activities included igniting rocket motors, building satellites, inspecting robots and understanding more of how infrared technology and airplanes work.

"It was our goal to help families see what happens during the day -- to help them get a perspective of what goes on here," said Melanie Pond, Research Foundation human resources manager. "It's one more way to get to know us."

Pond said of the 305 employees, about 200 plus their families showed up, which she called a great turnout.

The parents with their children rotated from one station to another. Most eventually went to all five, some of which were held indoors and some just outside SDL's Calibration and Optical Research building.

Jeff Bolingbroke, a cost analyst for the foundation, said although he doesn't work in the science and engineering aspect of the company, his three kids had fun.

"It gets them excited about science," he said.

Bolingbroke's oldest -- a 6-year-old -- has been asking at home what goes on at his work, he said. Having stations directed toward kids, with people who could explain things in their terms, helped his kids understand a little more, he said.

While some activities were aimed toward younger children -- such as building a paper satellite -- others were more interesting to older kids and teenagers. Pond said organizers tried to have something there to interest everybody.

Thirteen-year-old Hannah Wada said she still doesn't completely understand what her dad does at work but enjoyed learning from the different stations, especially the one concerning student-built remote-controlled airplanes. The Logan resident said she's wanted to be a pilot for about five years and was interested in learning about the plane's drag and lift specifics.

Software engineer Pedro Sevilla spent his day teaching about infrared technology. With a camera set up on the audience that sent infrared images to a giant screen, Sevilla and other employees taught kids why their faces were yellow and their clothes came through in darker, or cooler, colors.

"Kids sometimes have cold noses," he joked. "Adults often have cold hands. So, if you think you have a circulation problem, this is a good diagnosis."

Sevilla said Family Day is important not just to show families what parents and spouses do at work, but because a lot of kids in the group are interested in science and engineering either as a hobby or future career.

Gayle Bowen, who coordinates SDL's education outreach, agreed the activities were important for the lives of some participants. Some, she said, might decide based on what interested them Thursday what they want to do with their lives.

"You never know who the next scientist is," she said.