Jet Airplanes and Space Geeks

I am currently at SEEC a conference in Houston that I have gone to for several years. The first year I attended was 2003 just days after STS 107 and Columbia was lost on re-entry. It was an eerily somber conference that year. This year there are some similarities because of the proposed 2011 federal budget released on Monday. The Constellation program, which would take America back to the moon and on to Mars, was cut. Everyone has been instructed not to talk about the political controversy brewing in Washington DC. Most all attendees would agree, the cancellation of Constellation is a retreat for the U.S. in its preeminence in space.

The great thing about this conference is that it gives fantastic tools and experiences to teachers to improve their instruction of the next generation of leaders and explorers. The attendees get behind the scenes access to Mission Control, Building 9/Vehicle Mock-Up complex, robotics laboratory and much, much more. I get to hang out with lots of friends and learn stuff to take back to Space Camp and Aviation Challenge.  I am a firm believer that educators have more impact on our future than today’s politicians. All the experiences at SEEC help teachers motivate students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) content areas. Simply put, a teacher’s classroom becomes exponentially larger.

I have toured the flight line at Ellington Field – Home of NASA’s T-38. I love the smell of an airplane hanger! I toured the Vehicle Mock-Up building. It is so cool how our TCF or MCC at Space Camp looks so much like JSC’s training floor. While walking around the Vehicle Mock-Ups I saw Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, astronaut and Space Camp alumnus. I got to tell her personally how much I appreciated her agreeing to take up a set of Space Camp wings on her mission next month. I felt it would be fitting for our first Space Camp alumni to be an astronaut to take a set of wings when she launched. Hopefully, I will get to be at her launch!

Other than hanging out with astronauts, the best part of SEEC is seeing old friends. Taunya Sweet, one of my BFFs from Space Camp, has been traveling the country teaching robotics to little kiddies! She is here! Crazy Tony Fleury from Alpha 19 joined us at SEEC this year. Another Alpha 19 member and Oliver-Key family member, Rhonda is my roomie. There are like 100 teacher camp alumni at the conference. Even my good buddy Leesa Hubbard, fellow Squire! Our favorite female astronaut and feminist Sally Ride even joined us for a keynote address.

I love visiting Houston, but on Super Bowl weekend I would rather be glued to ESPN trying to find out what my man Peyton is doing. I enjoy my time on the road, but home is in Huntsville, Alabama!