10 Nov Buzz Aldrin inspires a new generation
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, stepped out on the Germanna Community College’s Culpeper campus lawn Friday to fly drones with local students and inspire a new generation to look up in wonder.
Aldrin, now 84, was the lunar module pilot in 1969 on Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing, and piloted the Gemini 12 mission.
At Germanna’s Joseph R. Daniel Technology Center, during the visit for his ShareSpace Foundation, he acted as mentor to Culpeper high school students in the Germanna Scholars program and to elementary school-aged children from local Boys & Girls Clubs.
While students built their drones, Aldrin showed them how to fix problems with the propellers and told about how when he was young he had to make simple propeller machines “out of cement, balsa wood, tissue paper, a propeller and one rubber band.”
“When we went to the moon no one had heard of STEM,” he said, talking about the push to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics to students.
Aldrin said that while American students were achieving in school then, standards aren’t what they used to be. Now, educators need to figure out how to get enthusiasm for science, math, technology, engineering and even art to create curious, creative students.
Autumn Rhea, 9, and in fifth grade; Luke Cianciotti, 7, a third-grader; and Carter Rees, 9, in fourth grade, worked together on a drone.
“It’s cool,” Luke said about Aldrin’s visit.
Autumn and Carter were able to ask Aldrin questions.
Carter asked Aldrin if he was first on the moon’s surface, to which he replied, “Neil was closer to the door.”
And Autumn asked what it was like on the moon.
“It was out of this world,” Aldrin replied.
In the Germanna Scholars group, Noah Shealy, a 16-year-old junior at Culpeper County High School, and Emily Boutchyard, 16 and a junior at Eastern View High School, built drones and talked with Aldrin about his experiences.
This is the first semester for the program, which allows select students from Culpeper to earn an associate degree at Germanna before they graduate from high school.
“It’s exciting; this is a once in a lifetime experience,” Emily said.
Noah wants to go into the Army after high school and do something science-related in the service. He was interested to learn that Aldrin started out in the Air Force.
Aldrin didn’t just inspire the children, though.
David Sam, president of Germanna Community College, related how the Apollo 11 mission prompted him to get interested in robotics.
And drone instructor Michael Cain, who also has his own company, RCYourC Inc. that creates drone technology, said Aldrin has always been a hero of his and his influence prompted him at a younger age to get involved in science and even try to become and astronaut.
“One of you may follow in my footsteps,” Aldrin said to the students. “You may want to go to Mars. Embrace the power in your hands. Everyone has a choice to make. There was more than technology in that lunar landing in 1969. It’s how you program things, how you program your life. You’re here working on drones— that’s special.”
Aldrin has been outspoken in favor of humans creating a permanent colony on Mars, rather than revisiting the moon.
And he hopes to inspire a generation who will go out an achieve that goal of making humanity a two-planet species.
“It takes doing something new and different [to inspire people about space again],” he said. “Today there are not many people who think anything is impossible. They see tremendous exaggeration in movies and video games. We’re getting spoiled. It takes hard work and allocation of resources.”
He said that the most expensive year of the Apollo project wasn’t when the lunar module landed. It was two years before and that made the flight possible.
Germanna’s foundation executive director and vice president for institutional advancement, Doug Elliott, reached out to Aldrin through a contact within his educational organization and brought him to Germanna to talk and interact with students.
“Our missions overlap,” he said. “We are reaching underserved populations and teaching the importance of a “STEAM”—science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics—education.”