Space wizard comes to Kansas

Ball engineer inspires next generation

by Mary Blake
The plains of Kansas are light-years away from Kepler’s otherworldly  discoveries. But Kansas native and Ball detector engineering area manager Penny Warren became a bit like the Wizard of Oz this summer when she gave a Kepler talk to an engaged audience of adults and K-12 students at the Galaxy Forum in the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Ball's Penny Warren gives a Galaxy Forum hosted presentation at the Kansas Cosmosphere.Warren spoke to about 60 middle and high school teachers, children, family, friends and visitors about the hardware and latest discoveries of the Kepler/K2 missions.
 “The son and daughter of an old Kansas friend -- two very bright students who are both interested in science --seemed encouraged,” said Warren. “The son wants to study metallurgy, so I told him about Ball’s Materials and Process department and now he wants to apply for an internship and come to work for us someday.”

Wide open spaces
The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center is a 105,000 square foot facility, which was one of the first affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution and its National Air & Space Museum. The Cosmosphere includes a digital planetarium, theater and numerous interactive exhibits. The Ad Astra Kansas Foundation, which serves as an information hub for space-tech research, development and commercialization projects in Kansas, contacted Warren’s alma mater, Kansas State University, looking for an alumni with Kepler connections. K-state rememberred Warren’s 2011 talk at the University which mentioned her Kepler focal plane array work and referred her to Ad Astra Kansas, which hosts the Galaxy Forum at the Cosmosphere.

Going beyond
Attendees had a chance to ask lots of questions.Warren went above and beyond to make sure she was up to date on the Kepler mission.  After working on the Kepler program, she had gone on to other projects and lost touch with Kepler’s scientific results. “I didn’t participate in any of the science analysis, but felt that was the information this audience would want to hear,” she said. “So I spent late nights reading about the science produced on Kepler to be able to include it in the talk and to answer any questions I got.”

Warren also received valuable help from Ball’s Outreach Manager Denise Henry. “Denise was absolutely key to making this event possible,” said Warren.  “She provided a 15th-scale Kepler model to take to the Cosmosphere and a lot of information and giveaways, especially for the teachers.”  It was the first talk for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) outreach Warren gave for Ball. She also gave talks in 2011 at both Kansas State University and Purdue University about detector engineering. “Denise helps us to present to an audience who is science-educated, but not aerospace engineers. Our presentations include video and always have the right amount of detail to really engage a wide variety of audiences.”

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