Space Foundation News

Memorial Gift Funds Purchase of New Science Education Equipment

Written by: developer

Students will have hair-raising experience with Van de Graaff Generator

Thanks to a generous memorial gift, students and teachers visiting the Space Foundation Discovery Center will learn firsthand about electricity with a new, special piece of science equipment, a Van de Graaff generator.

A Van de Graaff generator is an electrostatic machine that uses a moving belt to accumulate high voltages on a hollow metal globe. It demonstrates practical aspects and concepts of static electricity. The Space Foundation’s Space Education Specialists will use it to talk about lightning in meteorology courses, particularly when discussing extreme weather, as well as plasma when discussing the four states of matter.

The generator will also be a great addition to our new Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) presentations. GPM is an international satellite mission that will set a new standard for precipitation measurements from space, providing the next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. Our Space Education Specialists are “GPM Master Teachers,” having been trained by NASA scientists. Demonstrations and applications of the Van de Graaff generator will also be available to the general public in our El Pomar Space Gallery.

The gift is a result of a collection of donations from a group of colleagues at Holland & Hart, given in memory of Kimball Jensen. Jensen’s daughter, Janna Lewis, is an attorney with Holland & Hart who works with the Space Foundation. When her father recently passed away, co-workers wanted to make a donation in his name that would support education at the Space Foundation.

Kimball loved to fly, and was fascinated by the subject of air and space. His passion for travel and exploration inspired many others to do the same. His legacy of inspiration will live on in the smiles of children served in our education programs. An engraved plaque on the generator will read, “A Man Who Loved Air/Space and Life — Kimball Jensen 1951-2014.”

“The Van de Graaff generator is something we have wanted for years, but never had the funds to obtain,” said Bryan DeBates, Director-Education at the Space Foundation. “It is one thing to lecture students, but we prefer to put the learning into their hands and into their discovery. Study after study has shown the value of hands-on learning. Students are more motivated, they learn more and even their reading skills improve.  

“The day after we got the generator out of the box we used it in two different presentations,” continued DeBates. “The Education and Discovery team is extremely excited to explore the possibilities of how we can use this with students. This piece of equipment allows us to share science concepts with children that aren’t possible any other way. It will definitely make our hands-on activities for students even better than before. All of this is now possible thanks to the gift honoring Mr. Jensen.”

For more information about supporting our education programs, please call Development at 719-576-8000 or email [email protected].

Pictured: Janna Lewis and her daughters with the Discovery Center’s new Van de Graaff generator

This article is part of Space Watch: January 2015 (Volume: 14, Issue: 1).