NASA officials hope sixth graders who visit them to get out of school for a couple of hours will leave with stars in their eyes.
"Middle school is not a bad place to try to hook a kid," said retired Brig. Gen. David Stringer, director of the NASA Plum Brook Station.
Plum Brook plans to provide tours of NASA facilities to sixth graders from local schools this spring.
Up to four groups of 25 kids each will participate in tours later this week, said Lance Warner, a local businessman who originated the idea.
About 60 area teachers toured Plum Brook on Friday, following in the footsteps of EHOVE employees the week before.
Robin Brown, operations manager at the Space Power Facility, was a 10-year-old growing up in Norwalk when he went to an employee open house at Plum Brook. His uncle, Robert Squires, was a NASA employee.
Brown was fascinated by the nuclear reactor.
When he was 14, Brown returned, and this time he got to visit the Space Power Facility and look at a Centaur rocket engine. Hooked, he resolved to major in engineering and work at NASA.
"It's an interesting time for kids when they're first being exposed to something they've never seen before," said 53-year-old Brown.
NASA, which has an aging workforce, is trying to interest more children in going to college to major in science, technology, engineering or math.
"We need to get our own kids fired up about hard science," Stringer said. "If kids will major in that, there's real money out there for scholarships."
Tours of schoolkids at Plum Brook will be scheduled once the open house is completed, Warner said. Eventually, ninth graders will be shown around Plum Brook, too, he said.
The open house at Plum Brook will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 31 and June 1.
Officials hope to demonstrate that NASA doesn't just employ rocket scientists, but also provides job opportunities to welders and people with other skills, Warner said.