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Nothing eclipses nery accomplishments Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Jun 18 2011 12:00 PM

Watching live coverage of this week's lunar eclipse was mesmerizing. And nostalgic.

Mesmerizing because, while an eclipse of any sort takes painfully long to develop, it's fascinating to consider that technology allows us to watch a celestial event unfold as it happens.

At the same time I waxed nostalgic because I recalled my days in high school. Sheepishly I remember the days when I would snicker at the nerds who would hang out in the computer lab and tinker with Commodore 64s and Apple Macintosh computers. Why they wouldn't choose study hall, where they could sleep or goof off like the rest of us, was beyond me.

Man, I was a dumb kid sometimes.

Undoubtedly, some of the tinkerers and computer geeks went on to careers in engineering and aerospace.

They have travelled down the same road as the men and women who made space travel and moon landings possible.

The students who took pleasure in solving quadratic equations and physics problems are the same professionals who take a country's - and at times a world's - dreams and make them reality.

As I listened to the eclipse narrators talk about the engineers and astronauts who participated in the Apollo missions, I thought of the young men and women today who participate in the programs like FIRST Robotics.

The program encourages high school students to build robots. The idea is to get them more interested in pursuing the sciences as a possible career.

Some of the devices you see at any of their competitions seem almost like prototypes for lunar vehicles and Mars rovers.

It's not out of the realm of possibility to imagine some of these kids going on to work at NASA or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, two places where the imagined becomes a reality.

Like most adults, I look back and think I should have done some things differently. I don't know that I have the aptitude for a career in science. I do know that I could have put my time in study hall to better use rather than sleeping.

I also know that now, years later, I'm grateful to the kids who got a kick out of playing with computers and electronics, whether it was at my school or elsewhere.

That gratitude extends to the students today who spend their time tinkering in labs and robot competitions. They, like their predecessors, might just be the ones who bring far away worlds a little closer.

They make the future exciting.

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