Ear plugs aren't usually required for going outside to play, but the fifth-graders at Pinckney School had other plans Thursday.
Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, from Kansas University's aerospace engineering department, led a demonstration of a pressure jet engine for the children. Two KU students built the engine nearly 20 years ago, and its volume had everyone covering their ears Thursday.
When the engine began to warm up, 10-year-old Raejaan Spicer held close to her teacher and friend. The fifth-grader later chased down several of the "water rockets" Barrett-Gonzalez fired high in the sky.
"It reminded me of Starbase," Spicer said, referring to the Kansas program designed to help spark interest in science and math. "It was awesome, and I got to learn about air pressure."
Barrett-Gonzalez speaks at many area schools on the importance of science and engineering. In addition to the jet engine demonstration, Barrett-Gonzalez helped the students inflate a makeshift hot air balloon. The children helped hold it up, while Gonzalez fielded questions.
Annette Bennett has been a paraeducator at Pinckney since 2002. Watching the fun activities from a distance, she said they have a positive influence on the students.
"They love it," she said. "They're jumping around and excited to learn about science."
"Unfortunately, today, many people say science and math don't have the pizzazz of some of the other subjects," Barrett-Gonzalez said. "But this is a blast and you can do so many fun things with it."
He said he still recalls when he first learned how carbon dioxide expands, more than 30 years later. He was in the first grade. He hopes to spark a similar interest in students at Pinckney.
"Hopefully, I can plant the seed for something that will grow in years to come," he said. "Who knows what these kids will do?"