Animal Planet star attracts thousands to Sci-Tech community night
Posted: 10/16/2003
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Thousands of South Texas families "experienced" a humorous and animated Jeff Corwin live and in person at Boeing's Sci-Tech Community Night during Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week. HESTEC is hosted by The University of Texas-Pan American in conjunction with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa in an effort to stimulate and encourage interest by students in pursuing science and math higher education degrees and careers.

Above, Jeff Corwin, host of Animal Planet's "The Jeff Corwin Experience," gets an opportunity to have a question-and-answer session with the many children and parents that attended the HESTEC Community Night.
Corwin, who is the executive producer and host of the Animal Planet channel's popular animal adventure show "The Jeff Corwin Experience," told the crowd that one of his first encounters as a child with an animal was with a garter snake while visiting his aunt's house.

"When I saw that snake I was hooked - literally," Corwin said. The snake had bitten him, but when his aunt yelled at him to get rid of it, the six-year old Corwin, through tears, said "no - I love it!"

Answering a myriad of questions from an excited crowd during his hour on stage, Corwin said snakes have remained as one of his favorite animals and then named a long list of the many types of snakes he has seen. When asked how many countries he had traveled to in order to do his show, Corwin responded, "I have traveled to 40 countries but my television show is in 90 countries."

Corwin, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in both biology and anthropology from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, has also completed graduate work on Central American bats and established a long record of educating people about endangered species and the threatened ecosystems they inhabit.

"I like to share information about animals - some people do that in schools, some do that in museums but I do it on television," Corwin said.

A massive crowd visits the UTPA campus for Sci-Tech Expo Community Night during HESTEC Week.
Corwin's presentation was just one of many exhibits, booths and activities made available to visitors to HESTEC's Community Night. UTPA engineering students manned a booth allowing people to experiment with robotics while other booths, manned by UTPA student organizations such as the Environmental Awareness Club, offered food from tamales to pizza.

Jason Freeman, a NASA employee who works in the Office of Education, escorted a person donned with a light weight replica of a real space suit for visitors to view. "A real space suit would be designed for micro-gravity and would weigh much more than this one," Freeman explained to inquisitive youngsters and their parents.

Above, children gather around the NASA mascot to ask him some questions about the NASA program during the HESTEC Community Night Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Roberto Olivarez, a ninth-grader at Edinburg North High School, attended the event with his older sister. "I am interested in science, not necessarily animals, but in plants. I want to be a biochemist," Olivarez said. Olivarez's sister Sonja, a UTPA English major, said she enjoyed Jeff Corwin. "He's pretty funny," Olivarez (Sonja) said.

Kelsey Davidson, a sixth-grader at DeLeon Middle School in McAllen, stood in a long line waiting to get Corwin's autograph. "I came because I thought it would be a really cool experience because I love science. It's one of my favorite subjects. And I totally love 'Animal Planet'. Also, my great grandpa was a scientist and I'd really like to follow in his footsteps," Davidson said.

Among others attending community night was State Representative Roberto Gutierrez, District 41, who said he wanted to see first-hand what UT Pan American was doing to inspire young people to continue their education.

"The University is doing an excellent job in reaching the community and bringing them onto campus and arouse their curiosity about math and engineering," Gutierrez said. "We need to get the family as a whole involved in what education can do."

Also speaking to the crowd of fathers, mothers and children was Lieutenant Colonel Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, who despite poverty and illiteracy problems became a system scientist for the United States Army.

"Keep your children in school," she said. "Encourage them to take the math and sciences courses, and tell them that yes, it is possible to reach the moon."