Friday, March 28, 2014

Former astronaut encourages scientific exploration and persistance

Former astronaut Leland Melvin kicked off the Randolph College Science Festival with a lecture about his journey to becoming an astronaut. He advised students in the audience to explore science by experiencing it and never giving up.

Melvin explained how he gained experience in science while growing up in Lynchburg with parents who were teachers. Science was more than just book learning, he said. He learned about problem solving, creating, and experimenting through experiences such as helping his dad convert a bread delivery truck into an RV, building his own skateboard, and playing with a chemistry set.

“Science isn’t just about reading in a book,” he said. “Science is about making things.”

Melvin explained that he first learned about persistence during a high school football game when he dropped a touchdown pass, but the coach called the same play again. On the second try, he caught the pass, winning the game for Lynchburg’s Heritage High School and helping win him a college scholarship. He said the same kind of persistence is needed in science.

“If we had quit after the first five launches that failed, we never would have gone to the moon,” he said. He asked whether any students in the audience had ever failed a test, and he encouraged them to continue learning and trying to succeed. “You have to just keep moving,” he said.

After his talk, he answered questions from the audience and signed autographs and posed for photos with fans.

For photos from Melvin’s talk, check out the Science Festival 2014 Facebook album. Also, read this article in the News & Advance for more details about his talk.