Kenny McCardle is a First Class Act

Kenny McCardle stands beside Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL prior to liftoff in Sept 2006.
Kenny McCardle stands beside Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL prior to liftoff in Sept 2006.
Since 1966, Kenny McCardle has worked as a Technical Specialist in the Materials and Components Laboratories Office at the NASA White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) located near Las Cruces, NM. Throughout his career, McCardle has supported aerospace testing at WSTF and during his spare time, the Science Advisors (SciAd) in the public schools.

SciAds help students learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by pairing experienced personnel from the test facility with students who attend the Las Cruces Public Schools.

Just ask Kenny to provide science demonstrations to 1st and 3rd grade classes at Desert Hills Elementary, and everyone there agrees: he is a first-class act!

Recently, Kenny showed students that ordinary materials such as balloons, rubber balls, flowers, and bananas will react differently in space atmospheres where temperatures can range from very hot to very cold.

Liquid nitrogen (LN2) boils at −196 °C (−321 °F) and is a cryogenic fluid that mimics certain space temperatures. When ordinary materials are placed in LN2, the material’s properties change and balloons shrink, rubber balls and flowers shatter and bananas can drive nails into wood.

Watching the demonstrations from a distance wearing safety glasses Kenny gave them, the students learned the basics of safely handling LN2.

“The glasses were a big hit!” McCardle said.

McCardle also helped the students make Flubber (an elastic polymer that can be rolled into a ball and bounced or played with) as a science project.

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Kenny McCardle stands beside NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis. STS-115 (Sept. 2006) on the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch pad in Florida. He supported the Apollo and shuttle programs.
McCardle then asked the students if they wanted him to make ice cream. With the deafening ‘yeses,’ he mixed heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and LN2, which freezes the ingredients immediately into ‘space ice cream.’

Students thought having Space Ice Cream to eat was better than having their very own safety glasses, but when teachers saw the fun the students had in making Flubber balls to play with, they clamored for the recipe. So here it is:


Catalyst: Mix2/3 Cup of warm water1 ½ Tsp Borax

Monomer: Mix1 Cup Elmer’s glue¾ Cup warm water3 drops food coloring

Mix (all of the above) together quickly

Becomes Flubber (polymer)

After mixing and adding drops of food coloring, continue to shape the polymer into balls. The more time spent working with the polymer, the smoother and more elastic the polymer becomes.

Read more about NASA White Sands Test Facility’s unique test capabilities: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wstf/home/index.html Learn more about the Las Cruces Public Schools: http://www.lcps.k12.nm.us/

Cheerie Patneaude
White Sands Test Facility

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