[KHTS] – Sounds of excitement, laughter and applause echoed from the multipurpose room at Valley View Elementary School in Canyon Country, as more than 50 kindergarten and transitional kindergarten students were exposed – some for the first time – to Mars exploration.
Two local Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees, Jennifer Trosper and Dennis Young, came to Valley View on Wednesday for a day of sessions to teach each grade level about NASA’s Mars program and what it takes to explore Mars through a rover.
Young is a lead project resource analyst at JPL. He led the session and kept it simple for the kindergarteners, explaining how Mars is farther from the sun than the earth and how scientists believe that their used to be liquid water on Mars.
He also talked about the hope to one day send people to Mars. The man or woman who will be the first person to set foot on Mars is likely sitting in a kindergarten somewhere today, Young told the students.
The students then had the chance to experience a Mars rover firsthand as it rolled across their backs, to demonstrate how a rover would drive over rocks on the Martian terrain.
The event will reach Valley View’s more than 600 kids by the end of the day, said Assistant Principal Julie McBride.
It is only one of five demonstrations in the Santa Clarita Valley this week.
Trosper and Young visited Legacy Christian Academy on Tuesday and will be at Santa Clarita Elementary School on Thursday and at Christ Lutheran Preschool on Friday.
There will also be a free event at Santa Clarita United Methodist Church on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., organized by local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and open to all SCV students, first through fifth grade.
The point of these presentations is to get children excited about science and technology, said Trosper, who the deputy project manager for the Curiosity rover and has been doing Mars missions at JPL for 20 years.
“What we want to do is make sure kids find technology fun,” she said.
Math and science can seem dull until the students see it put into action, she said.
Trosper also tries to communicate with the kids at their level. While Young taught the kindergarten classes, Trosper met with Valley View’s special education students. She explained how the planets go around the sun and then let them interact with the Mars rover.
“It might be the thing that brings them to the next step in their development,” she said.
The goal was to inspire all the students to follow their dreams.
“What do you think is impossible that could be possible?” Trosper said that challenged the students to consider.
For more information about the free presentation at Santa Clarita United Methodist, call 818-237-0789.
About Jennifer Trosper
Jennifer Trosper | SCVTV File Photo
Jennifer Trosper graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, with a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in music. She earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California. She has worked at JPL since 1990 on a number of missions exploring the solar system. She is currently the Mars Curiosity deputy project manager, responsible for leading the Curiosity operational mission.
In 2013, she was named a JPL Fellow in Mars rover surface operations, received a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for Curiosity operations work and also received a “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” California Legislature award. Trosper lives in Santa Clarita.
About Dennis Young
Dennis Young has a bachelor of science degree in international business from California State University, Long Beach, and a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish from the University of Madrid, Spain. Dennis is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, has called three continents home and has traveled to 34 countries.
He has worked at JPL for 10 years on various space exploration missions and is currently the lead resource analyst on the Mars Curiosity mission. Young lives in Santa Clarita.