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Nerdy and loving it in Suffolk

Published 8:04pm Saturday, July 20, 2013

I recently finished watching the entire series “Star Trek: Enterprise” on Netflix.

In other words, I’m a nerd. Used to be known as a geek. Not one of those dress-up-in-superhero-costumes-to-go-to-comic-conventions nerds, but geeky to my plump little core, nonetheless.

My dear, longsuffering wife has been with me to every space movie released since we met in 1999. Many of them were in 3-D. One was on IMAX, even though she hates 3-D. And IMAX. She’s been with me to the Virginia Air & Space Museum in Hampton, to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Dulles, to Cape Canaveral on several unsuccessful attempts to catch a shuttle launch (I finally saw one on my own) and to NASA’s Wallops Island facility to see another rocket launch.

Whenever I come home and tell her about another youth from our area who’s headed to Space Camp, I can see her struggling to remain patient, as she clearly knows what’s coming next: “They never had Space Camp when I was a kid!”

So I’ve been careful not to tell her about all the wonderful science programs that Suffolk youth have been involved in this summer.

King’s Fork Middle School, for instance, has been hosting the Tidewater Regional Governor’s School for the past week, and a group of about 60 rising fourth- through seventh-grade students is enjoying far more than the Styrofoam dioramas of the solar system that constituted hands-on science when I was a boy.

No baking-soda volcanoes for these kids. They’re building and testing wind turbines, solar-powered cars and roller coasters. They’re testing magnetic levitation and micro-gravity devices. And they’re cooking hot dogs in hand-built solar ovens.

Now, that’s science you can sink your teeth into.

The students come from schools in Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton, where they are probably considered the nerds of their classes. The Governor’s School gives them a chance to see that there are other people their own age who share their interest in science. It’s nerd central, and I think I’d fit right in, except I’m probably not smart enough.

These will be the engineers who design and build the rockets that take people to Mars. They will be the ones who develop technologies that make the nation energy-independent. Maybe they’ll even figure out how to grill the perfect hot dog when you’re out of propane and there’s no charcoal in the house.

Meanwhile, for the next week or so, they’ll just have fun with science. I’m trying hard to contain my jealousy.

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