PacSci Perspectives

Meet Ed Rittenhouse, Tinker Tank Volunteer

by | Sep 7, 2016

Volunteering at Pacific Science Center is not just a fulfilling experience; volunteers provide essential support to all areas of the Science Center’s operations.

More recently, we’ve expanded both our offerings and footprint for our hands-on design space, Tinker Tank, which means more opportunities for volunteers to launch rockets, connect circuits and build with guests of all ages.

Meet Ed Rittenhouse, one of our current volunteers in Tinker Tank. We sat down with Ed to learn more about his background, why he volunteers and what he likes most about spending time at the Science Center.

Describe your favorite moment or interaction you’ve experienced as a volunteer.

I was helping some kids at Tinker Tank work on designing very tall LEGO towers that could withstand a windstorm. Each kid graphed a draft and we helped them determine whether or not it was strong enough. One of the younger kids, after three tries, started to understand what the graphs represented and plotted several, trying to get kids to work on their answers. It’s important to ask them questions—to help them get to their own answers.

What do you like most about volunteering at Pacific Science Center?

You get to play with really cool toys! I’ve always liked that — tinkering with things, like my car. It’s fun to watch the kids and adults experience the projects we put together. They’re playing with things they may not have thought to experiment with before, and it helps them think about things differently; for example, the LEGO towers help kids tackle engineering in a way that they can relate to. Now, engineering seems more approachable.

What is your favorite place or experience within Pacific Science Center, that not many people know about?

Tinker Tank is one. Many guests walk by and don’t necessarily know what we are doing. However, when one group comes by and asks us about it, we have the opportunity to educate them. Once one group is over here, participating, another wants to figure out what they’re doing, and then that group will join in. It’s really cool to see people get engaged in the process.

I also enjoy the daily activities, like the live shows (such as Danger Science). It’s something kids find exciting and out-of-this-world, but it’s also very relevant to our world. Once again, you see people start to get involved in science and it becomes part of their day, and hopefully their lives.

Tell us about yourself—what do you do for fun?

Tinker Tank is a big one — it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and get engaged with the community. It relates to my personal hobbies; I love to tinker with cars! I love to figure out how things work; that’s why I love Tinker Tank. I also love the outdoors — I love to hike, canoe and fish.

Share an interesting fact from your past.

On May 18, 1980, I was in canoeing in Eastern Washington. That morning, Mount Saint Helens erupted. My friends and I were caught in ash fallout — and we were stuck. We had to determine that each of us was safe and accounted for. Someone told us we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere — but we were determined to. A couple of us fussed with the cars; we barely managed to get out. I’ll never forget that.

What is your favorite science fiction book or movie?

I love Blade Runner; it had a realistic perception of a very possible future. Not only that, it was a well-made movie in general.

What’s your favorite gadget?

My cell phone — it does everything! I can take pictures of something I’m trying to build, look up almost anything or make a simple calculation; these things allow me to be more productive.

How long have you been a volunteer?

I have been volunteering with Tinker Tank for about two months. Before I retired, I was a Chief Engineer of Mechanical Airlines at Boeing. Tinker Tank allows me to continue to create and invent — and help inspire a new generation of inventors.

What were you doing before you were a volunteer?

I spent 40 years as an engineer at Boeing designing commercial airplanes. They’re very complicated machines. Despite the fact it looks like it inches by, a very large Boeing 747 flies at the same speed as a much smaller Boeing 737 — the bigger 747 just looks like it’s going slower because it’s so big. In a race, given the same odds, they would tie; this is partly due to the bigger plane’s bigger engine created to carry the extra weight.

Share about your future.

Keep enjoying new and interesting stuff!