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Aviation Enrichment Mini-Symposium

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jul 24, 2008 in Family Stuff, Local Community, Today's Photo

What a strange name for a fun event that we attended at the FAA Technical Center yesterday! The Tech Center is not just the building where I work – it’s a 5000-plus acre facility containing the main building (for FAA system development and research) plus the Atlantic City Airport, US Coast Guard facility, 177th Fighter Wing Air National Guard facility, Federal Air Marshal facility, and other buildings where there is research done for bomb detection, airplane safety, weather phenomena…it’s a really interesting place to work.

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I took Andrew and Emily with me to work yesterday for a series of tours and workshops introducing kids to different aspects of aviation – labeled an “Aviation Enrichment Mini-Symposium”.  That was the title of the email that was sent out to all of the FAA employees a few weeks ago announcing this event – and I think many of them ignored it because they had no idea what it meant.  So many people stopped us and said that they had no idea the event was even taking place today!  If the email had been titled, “Fun Things For You and Your Kids To Do Together So You Don’t Have to Just Sit At Your Desk All Day”, more people might have opened it and read it.  But there were still lots of kids there today and they all seemed to be having a great time.

Unfortunately, my poor son Matthew has walking pneumonia and wasn’t able to come with us today – Mike had to stay home with him all day.  I hope Matt feels better soon.

During the day, Emily and I made some crafts (of course – any time crafts are offered, you know we’ll be there!), watched a K-9 demonstration by the Egg Harbor Township police department (we’re not sure who was policing Egg Harbor Township while most of the police force was at this event), tried a flight-simulator, made some paper airplanes and took a fantastic tour of the Coast Guard facility on base.

I had NO idea exactly what the aviation division of the Coast Guard did – and boy, was I impressed!  These are some extremely brave men and women – especially the rescue swimmers.  I had no idea of the intensity of their training or the extreme danger of their missions.  These are the guys that are dropped from helicopters to rescue boaters or others who fall victim to sinking boats and rough seas, often in shark-infested waters.  Their physical stamina is incredible – they have to be able to swim with no floatation devices in sometimes up to 20 foot swells for up to 30 minutes – almost impossible conditions that require the swimmers to remain in top physical condition.  We met several of the swimmers who were very candid about their experiences – and were also quite easy-on-the-eyes if I do say so myself!  But I digress…

While we were there, we were able to tour the Coast Guard facility and the children were allowed to climb aboard a $10 million helicopter while a pilot explained the controls to them individually.  They were so accommodating and so patient with the children – I’d like to thank them for a great experience.

Meanwhile, Andrew was able to tour the 177th Fighter Wing, NJ Air National Guard facility.  He got to see their F-16s and weapons too – a boy’s dream!  After that, he toured the Federal Air Marshal training facility (which was a little bit more secretive about their operations – these are the guys who are present on every airline flight and act as cops in the sky) and also toured some air traffic control labs in the main building.  He also got to participate in a ‘mini egg drop’ where the kids has to try to cushion an egg that would be dropped from the second and third floor of the atrium.  Unfortunately, Andrew’s egg cracked on the first drop, but we had fun watching all of the other egg contraptions fall while we cheered them on.

I wish I had taken more photos, but my camera seemed to stay on my desk for most of the day while we ran from event to event.  I didn’t realize that the facility gave so many tours – this would be an excellent place for class trips for elementary and middle schools.

I think this experience also gave the kids a glimpse into what it’s like to work at the FAA Technical Center – they saw that the work that takes place there is interesting and that we can sometimes have fun at work too (like when one of my co-workers gave Emily a toy moose that ‘poops’ out brown jelly beans – thanks a lot, Jeff).

By the way, Andrew found it difficult to believe that I might actually have some knowledge about something other than raising kids and housework.  He kept saying, “So people actually come to YOU with questions about this stuff?!?!”  He may have actually been impressed with his own mother – although I’m sure he’d never admit it…

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