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Engineer reflects on Explorit’s role in choice of science career

This article appeared in the January 7, 2010 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Engineer reflects on Explorit’s role in choice of science career

Davis native, Stacie Hitchcock, at work at Intel Corporation in Folsom. She says Explorit's programs helped her gain confidence in science as a child, ultimately helping to make computer engineering a less intimidating career choice.

By Liz Shenaut
Special to the Enterprise


An Explorit Science Center family science night at Pioneer Elementary School in Davis during the early 1990s made a lasting impression on one third-grade girl.

Local computer engineer Stacie Hitchcock, now 26, says, “That ball you put your hands on that makes your hair stick out – I definitely remember the ball, because I had long hair, so it was really fun."

Beyond the static electricity ball, Explorit came into Hitchcock’s education several times during class field trips to Explorit’s hands-on museum (formerly located at what is now Explorit’s Nature Center on 5th Street).  There, she remembers measuring her heart rate and seeing how soda rots your teeth.

Hitchcock also participated in Nature Bowl, a series of conservation-themed competitions among elementary school students around the state, organized by the California Department of Fish and Game. Davis schools competed at Explorit Science Center.

Hitchcock says she enjoyed the informal, self-guided style of her visits to Explorit.

“You could go around and play with science-y things,” she says.

When Hitchcock was playing with science as a kid, she decided she wanted to make roller coasters when she grew up. In college, she got into engineering and found she liked computers better than mechanics. She got her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in Computer Science and Engineering.
Now she works as a Systems Engineer for Intel Corporation in Folsom, testing a new kind of memory storage for computers called solid-state drives.

Hitchcock is thankful for her science experiences as a child in helping her become comfortable with technology, math, and physics. She uses knowledge in all of these areas regularly in her job. She points out a common roadblock to technical careers for many children who lack science experiences.

“A science education when you are young is really important,” Hitchcock says,  “because later when you find a [science] field you want to work in, that area can’t be your first choice unless you have always been exposed to science.”

And that is where Explorit comes in. What makes Explorit so important to our community?

In Hitchcock’s words, it’s all about “the hands-on approach, and making the way you learn fun.”

This story is part one of a two-part series based on interviews with adults who were inspired by Explorit Science Center when they were children.
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Explorit Science Center, at 2801 Second St., has two exhibitions on display: “Move It! Science in Action” and “Wheels to Wings.”  Admission is $4 general, free for teachers, and ages 3 and under.  The museum is open to school groups by reservation and to the general public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org.

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