Tech Challenge set to inspire
FOR NASA astronaut Colonel Robert Shane Kimbrough, Maryborough's 2012 RACQ Technology Challenge was a chance to inspire science-mad students.
Col Kimbrough officially opened the 24-hour HPV race with a wave of the Australian flag on Saturday.
He spent the morning talking to the teams and signing autographs for star-struck school students.
"I love going and working with the school kids, to inspire them to do something they didn't think they could," he said.
In his first visit to Australia, Col Kimbrough joined NASA International Space Station risk manager Michael Lutomski and NASA education specialist Monica Trevathan to speak to teachers and members of the public at forums led by University of Southern Queensland.
He said they were now in talks with Technology Challenge organisers to visit the US in the hopes of starting up a similar event.
"I haven't seen anything like this in the US," he said.
"It has given me some good ideas to take home."
Col Kimbrough said a typical week with NASA could include Russian language lessons, maintaining and flying jets, simulator training and teaching other astronauts to use the robotics arms of the International Space Station.
He said it was his love of mathematics in high school that led to becoming an astronaut.
Col Kimbrough went into space in 2008, logging more than 15 days in space and more than 12 hours of spacewalks.
"I had some great teachers," he said.
"Hopefully these people have great teachers as well."
His colleague Mr Lutomski said events such as the tech challenge and their visit to the Fraser Coast would help to inspire the next generation of explorers.
"We need researchers and engineers and scientists," he said.
About 20 Fraser Coast teachers took part in a professional development workshop led by Mrs Trevathan at the weekend.
They will spend the rest of their time in Australia touring USQ's other campuses as part of the Sustainability -Lessons from Space conferences.