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Gatton Academy and Kentucky Science Center host ‘The Space Gal’ Emily Calandrelli at ‘Kid’s Science Night’

Eli Randolph
Emily Calandrelli speaks to a crowd of mostly children on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The presentation included information about her career and encouraged students and children to pursue studies and careers in S.T.E.M.

The Gatton Academy and the Kentucky Science Center hosted a “Kid’s Science Night” featuring Emily Calendrelli at Van Meter Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Calandrelli headlined the night, better known on her numerous social media platforms as “The Space Gal.” Calandrelli is the host and co-executive producer of the Netflix series “Emily’s Wonder Lab,” and she is an executive producer and Emmy-nominated host of FOX’s “Xploration Outer Space.” She was also featured on “Bill Nye Saves the World.”

The event sought to bring excitement and wonder to the fields of science and mathematics, propelling young students towards future careers in STEM.

It started at 5 p.m. with tables set for students to engage in hands-on scientific experiments.

Allen Clark, Gatton Academy lead residential counselor, worked one of the tables at the event, and he showed the students the power of surface tension. With some pepper sprinkled on water and a finger dabbed in dish soap, the students would place their finger in the water and witness the pepper run around their fingers. 

“The fun part was letting the kids think,” Clark said. 

The Kentucky Science Center opened the event with their “do-science-demo” show of science and explosions. Exploding balloons and fireballs made audience members cry out first in confusion, and then in excitement.

Then, Calandrelli came out and shared with the families some of her personal life advice and experiences that she has gained through her years in the field of STEM.

“No single test, no single moment defines you,” Calandrelli said. She went on to tell of the times in her life when she sought to be “gifted” but failed the test. But, that didn’t stop her. 

Calandrelli graduated from West Virginia University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in both Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering. She then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she received two Master of Science degrees, one in Aeronautics and Astronautics and another in Technology and Policy.

Calandrelli used on-stage experiments to engage the students in the room. One such experiment saw three volunteers place an Alka-Seltzer tablet into a film canister filled with water. The volunteers were told to shut the canister quickly after placing the tablet in, and then they were told to flip the canister upside down. After an anxious few seconds, the canisters shot up towards the ceiling with attendees erupting in screams and cheers.

Children and their parents participate in do it yourself science experiments hosted by the Gatton Academy before a presentation by Emily Calandrelli on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Multiple organizations including the Gatton Academy and the Kentucky Science Center were present hosting science experiments for families before the event. (Eli Randolph)

“Anytime I get to interact with kids, whether it be with my speeches or with my book signings, it’s my favorite part of my job,” Calandrelli said in a press meeting on Tuesday morning. “So, anytime I get to actually talk to the children who consume that content … it feels really magical, and it makes the work that I do feel more real.”

Tom Pennington attended the “Kid’s Science Night” with his grandchildren. Pennington, a WKU alum, co-founder of Physicians Rehab Solution of Bowling Green and a member of WKU’s College of Health and Human Services board of stakeholders, felt that education around STEM is crucial for the next generation.

“I think it’s everything,” Pennington said. “I think it’s vital that we make science and learning cool and fun.”

Pennington, when thinking of his grandson, Boone, 4, said, “I bought him some tools at Lowe’s the other day, and he’s willing to take apart everything … You know, just find a passion. Because these guys, I’m amazed at how much these young minds surprise you with their creativity.”

“The Space Gal” closed out the night reassuring the students and all in attendance that the differences and fears that they may be hiding could instead be used as “flashlights” that light their paths.

“Your insecurities may become your superpowers,” Calandrelli said.

News reporter Cameron Shaw can be reached at [email protected].

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