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Blast off! RIT helps link schoolchildren with space News hits

I’ve been fortunate enough to see some pretty cool things and meet some fairly high-profile people during my brief career. I’ve been inside the White House, interviewed various sports stars and have received “free” admission (as long as I was working) into many different sporting events.

Those are some of the perks that accompany the grueling hours and relatively low pay that comes along with working in the media. All of us at University News could probably share some stories about things they were able to see and do that would’ve been otherwise impossible without a press pass.

I have to say, however, that an event I covered this week at Emma Sherman Elementary School in Henrietta ranks right up there as one of my all-time favorite assignments.

There were no celebrities in the room. There was no outrageous admission fee. Instead, I was in a classroom surrounded by a bunch of fifth-graders. And I loved every second if it.

Students from the RIT Amateur Radio Club, Adam Gutterman, Rashmi Shah and Matt Antonio, joined one of their advisors, Jim Stefano, to help the Sherman students contact Flight Engineer Sunita Williams aboard the International Space Station, as it soared overhead at 17,500 miles per hour, via amateur (ham) radio.

There was a sense of excitement in the room throughout the morning, the type of buzz that can only be created by the wonder that is space travel—something most of us have only dreamt of experiencing. And when contact was finally made with the space station, at 9:38 a.m. EST, the next eight minutes did not disappoint.

The students asked great questions and Williams gave thoughtful answers. The excitement was due to much more than that, however. The fact that those students were able to communicate with someone in space, simply using a radio and an antenna, was just awesome.

And so many different people worked together to make it happen: members of the Rochester Amateur Radio Association, the RIT Amateur Radio Club and the faculty, staff and students at Sherman. The event was something nobody in the room, especially the students, would soon forget.

Gutterman, the president of RIT’s Amateur Radio Club, agreed: “This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done with ham radio,” he says. “As a kid, I used to dream of going into space, but I always kind of knew I would never get there. But today, it’s really a thrill knowing that we were able to contact the International Space Station.”

The event received widespread media coverage. It was featured on the front of the Democrat and Chronicle local section and the front page of the Henrietta Post. Stories also ran on WHAM-13, WHEC-TV Channel 10 and RNews.

While the coverage was great, nothing could duplicate actually being in the room. However, our multimedia ventures at University News have come close! If you’re interested in listening to the Q&A, visit the University News home page and click on “Latest Podcasts.” Let me know what you think!

  1. Ralph Whitbeck
    Jan 12

    Thanks again John for covering this story...as I said in Vienna's Post I was looking to tune in that morning on NASATV and was disappointed that is wasn't covered. So when I heard the podcast I was greatly appreciative of the effort.

  2. Mike Saffran
    Jan 19

    John, picking up on your remark about perks from working in the media:

    There was the multitude of free concert tickets and station mugs and T-shirts, of course (anyone need any of the latter?). As a traffic reporter, the daily 2 ½ hour airplane rides over Rochester were fun (and it was pretty cool being the only person up there watching traffic), along with reporting Santa Claus’ progress on the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve newscast on Channel 13.

    But probably most prominent are memories involving people—such as covering President Reagan, for my college radio station, on his ’84 campaign stop in Rochester; talking live on-air with Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong fame); receiving fan mail and, yes, even being asked for my autograph :-)

    I considered each of my media jobs a privilege—accompanied with responsibility.

  3. Ralph Whitbeck
    Jan 19

    Yeah even as a co-op with UNS you get perks. Three of which come to mind. 1. Being the web programmer for rit.edu. 2. http://www.rit.edu/~930www/NewsEvents/1998/May02/photos.html (S.I.S. COMPUTER SYSTEM CONNECTS WITH IBM . . .) I was chosen to walk the camera crew through the SIS system for a IBM promotional video. (By the way do you guys know if there is a copy laying around? I'd love to see it.) 3. Working with Vienna (I made the Groupies jealous). By the way Vienna do you guys still do 3PM snack time?

  4. Vienna
    Jan 20

    Ralph -
    Nope, 3 p.m. snack time is a thing of the past, although I still get a little hungry around that time. Bagel/donut Fridays are gone, too. The office has changed -- folks just seem too busy to gather these days.

  5. Ralph Whitbeck
    Jan 24

    If I was still there I would of left with the Bagels/donuts...sorry but that's just how I roll (pun very much intended)

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