Week 3: Hearings and Ballparks

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Friday, June 12, 2015


Drew Roberts

Last weekend provided me an opportunity to relax and recharge before a busy week.  After catching up on some sleep and casually exploring the city, Sunday had us attending a local STEM festival to demonstrate some cool experiments to elementary and middle school kids in a community just outside DC.  This was a great opportunity to test out some of the strategies that other AIP interns have been working on to better engage children in physics and other scientific fields.  The demonstration that I worked on used two polarized sheets, an overhead, and cellophane sheets with layers of scotch tape to create cool stained-glass/kaleidoscope effects.  It was a lot of fun to see such young kids getting excited about simple science experiments.

Throughout the first half of the week I did everything from networking with science-related staffers around the hill to preparing information for upcoming hearings.  On Thursday, the committee had our first hearing of the week.  This played out much differently than the EPA hearing from the week before.  This hearing was titled "Transforming America's Air Travel" and included witnesses from NASA, FAA, MIT, and other experts in the aeronautics field.  Instead of being a political game of "ask unflattering questions to the witness from the other side of the aisle," this meeting consisted of members from both parties asking questions of a panel of experts in an effort to be more informed on a topic.  This is the way that the country expects Congress to work.  It was civil and informative.  It was very positive to see both sides of the aisle working together to gain a better understanding.

After a solid hearing and some prep for the next one which would follow on Friday, it was time for the Congressional baseball game.  This was one of my favorite experiences so far in DC.  I attended the game with a staff member from the committee, Joe, and a former Science committee intern and UNC alumnus, Charlie.  It was great to meet someone who had shared experiences, both interning for the committee and attending Chapel Hill.  We made our way through mobs of people and found our seats to watch the Democrats take an early lead.  After several years of blow-out wins in a row, this was looking like another easy match up for the Dems. But after the first inning, the Republicans were warmed up and held the Democrats to a small lead until the end of the game.  The whole game was great.  President Obama showed up - in a failed attempt to connect with Democratic Congresspeople who were about to break with the President on a major vote, but that is neither here nor there - and the crowd went crazy.  He was a welcomed suprise.  Another highlight was when the one woman playing, Linda Sanchez, stepped up to bat and hit a quick single.  Not only was it her first at bat, but her very first swing!  The cheers from the crowd for Ms. Sanchez easily rivaled that for the President.  The Democrats ended up winning and the game was an overall great experience.

Congressman Cedric Richmond striking out Congressman Rand Paul.

On Friday, the committee had another hearing on transportation surfaces.  I did not attend that meeting, but held down the fort in our office during it.  To end the week, I got the opportunity to sit in on a conference call in which staffers from both the House and Senate side were reconciling equivalent bills passed from each chamber.  It was an eye-opening experience to see how much of these laws and regulations are written and edited behind the scenes by staffers only a few years older than me.  This was a very productive week, and I look forward to seeing even more next week!

Drew Roberts