New Artwork Coming Soon

We should have some new artwork for I Want A Pet Turkey coming this week. We are getting closer! Stay tuned!

Interview – NASA – Jessica Snyder

Hey everyone! This week on Questions To Inspire, we have an amazing interview. We are going to talk with someone that works at the NASA Langley Research Center – Flight Simulation Software Engineer – Jessica Snyder!

Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today on Questions To Inspire. Can you please start out with telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do at NASA?

I’m a flight simulation software engineer in the Simulation Development and Analysis Branch and NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC), located in Hampton, Virginia. I am also a graduate student at Old Dominion University, getting my master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering. I’ve been interning at LaRC for the last five years and have loved it the entire time. On a day-to-day basis, I am either programming software for flight simulators for commercial aircraft (like the kind most citizens fly on at the airport), or I am developing a simulation for a robotic, in-space assembly mechanism that would be used to build large habitat structures in Low Earth Orbit.

How awesome to hear what you are working on! Let’s talk about NASA. I think the general view of the Agency is that NASA is only about space, but it actually is a giant in the scientific world. Can you talk about your area of NASA and what are the goals that you hope to accomplish?

NASA employees do research and work in a LOT of fields, not just space exploration. NASA, which stands for “National Aeronautics and Space Administration”, focuses a lot on aeronautics as well – it’s actually how we started! NASA, which used to be the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started around the time the Wright Brothers had their first flight, and researchers in the NACA focused primarily on airplanes and other aircraft. Today, NASA is still doing a lot of research on atmospheric aircraft, both commercial and military, along with research in the fields of science, environmentalism, and even health.

In my branch, we support a lot of aircraft-based research. Our goal is to improve the safety of the national air space, making it safer for people like you and me to travel all across the world. The flight simulators we support allow researchers to test new equipment that will increase the autonomy of the flight system or will help pilots remain more attentive, improving the overall efficiency and safety of the aircraft and all passengers on-board.

We support space-based simulation work as well. In the past, we’ve developed high-fidelity simulators for the Apollo moon landing missions and for the Space Shuttle program, making it safer for our astronauts to fly. Nowadays, we’re developing simulations for in-space robotic assembly systems that will help us build large structures in Low Earth Orbit, making it less expensive for people to eventually live in space. The simulations we develop allow us to test case scenarios long before we ever launch and ultimately help ensure the success of these missions.

It is crazy to see how far we have come from the first flight to building structures in Low Earth Orbit. Let’s talk about you working at NASA, what was your reaction and what did others say when you told them you were working at NASA?

The reaction was mostly elation. I remember getting that first email telling me that I’d be getting my first internship at NASA. I was so excited, and everyone in my family was excited for me. And I remember getting my first co-op offer, which would ultimately help me land a permanent position at NASA. I was running down the halls, jumping for joy. My mom, of course, started bragging to everyone she knew that her daughter works for NASA (and she still does, five years later).

I bet she will be bragging for years to come too! One of the things we want to do in these interviews is talk about the importance of education, especially focusing on STEM subjects.  How important is it for children to learn STEM skills and what was your favorite subject during school?

It’s extremely important, in my opinion. Focusing on STEM subjects not only opens up your future to a career in science and engineering fields, but it gives you the tools to succeed in all areas of your life. I believe learning STEM subjects helps students think more analytically, taking into account every piece of evidence in this world and following step-by-step processes to help you reach all of your goals.  STEM can inspire discovery and curiosity in young children too, teaching them how to question everything and inspiring them to improve things, which is important to the innovation of this world.

I don’t know if it was necessarily my favorite subject, but I was especially good at math. My mom, being a math teacher herself, taught me how to tackle problems in a careful step-by-step manner and always to double check my work. I think that was a large reason why I continued to excel in STEM related subjects later in life, because of that skill I developed early on. Over time, I have grown more proud of this ability, and find it helps a lot in my day-to-day job.

So Jessica, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment of your career?

My greatest accomplishment is not any technical project I’ve worked on, though there have been plenty of those. I think my greatest accomplishment, the one I’m most proud of, is the ability I’ve developed to reach out to the community to bring people together and teach them something new. It’s one thing to create technology that will improve the world and quality of life for all that live on it, which I am very capable of doing, but it’s another thing to be able to care deeply about those people, give back, and share everything you know with them. So I consider my greatest accomplishments in my career to be those times when I’ve done STEM outreach, community service, or helped to build family through NASA.

I love this answer!!! We do a lot of outreach and volunteering at Moose Egg, so it is always cool to see others that give back in their community. Do you have any good advice that you were given that has really stayed with you?

It wasn’t explicit advice – no mantra of sorts – but it was made very clear to me all throughout my life that you can bring great joy to others through service, and through that service you do for others you may find joy yourself.

That is a really good idea to life by. We are at the end of our time and I would like to end with one last question that we have been asking all of our NASA interviewees, if a group of astronauts and a group of cavemen were made to fight, who would win?

It depends – do the cavemen have clubs? Are they allowed to fight with them? How big are the cavemen? Aren’t they fairly built people? Astronauts typically have to be smaller people so it’s easier to fit them in the launch capsules. I’d imagine the cavemen are probably larger built than the astronauts and probably stronger because they spend a lot of time hunting. Astronauts have to be physically in shape as well, but they don’t have to be prepared to fight off a saber tooth tiger or anything. So I think the cavemen would win in hand-to-hand combat; however, if they fight was in space, I don’t think the cavemen would have a very good feel for floating around in free-fall. The astronauts would be able to maneuver more easily and maybe trick the cavemen into traps they could set up.

Another win for the cavemen (I am shocked that we haven’t had more astronaut answers). Jessica Snyder, thank you so much for talking with us today and answering a few questions for us at Questions To Inspire and thanks to everyone else for reading.

Be sure to check out some of our other interviews and stay tuned for new interviews in the future!

Interview – NASA – Aaron Ward

Hey everyone! This week on Questions To Inspire, we have an amazing interview. We are going to talk with someone that works at the NASA Langley Research Center – Telecommunication Engineer – Aaron Ward!

Good afternoon, Aaron.  Let’s start out with you telling us a little bit  about yourself.

I’ve been in the telecommunications industry for nearly 15 years now, working my way up from a telecoms laborer pulling in cable on small contracted job sites, to completing repair calls from customers. Eventually being fortunate enough to being a resident contractor for other large enterprises, until my experience opened an opportunity onto NASA-Langley 3 years ago.

Many people don’t know how much NASA does for the scientific world and for environmental studies. I think the consensus is that it is only about space. Can you talk about your area of NASA and what are the goals that you hope to accomplish?

NASA’s goals have always evolved with scientific need ever since the days of NACA, NASA’s predecessor, began here at Langley in 1917. Ever since then, Langley in particular has been there when the American people have looked up into the sky and envied the flight of birds and then wanted to touch the stars. The quest for both have been an enduring journey that often enough creates more questions with the answers we find and it involves remarkable effort from a wide array of remarkable people.

With questions and answers found becoming more complex, everyone finding those scientific solutions need to be connected to each other, which is where my team and I play our part. Our contract, NASA Integrated Communications Services or NICS for short, are responsible for keeping everyone connected with telephones, teleconferences and online tools, so they can come up with better solutions and better ways to understand the planet on which we live. The entire goal of NICS is to anticipate the needs of the Agency, provide communication connections and help NASA be as integrated as possible, which everyone can benefit from.

My job is absolutely fascinating, as most people working on projects are only involved with their own specific study or project, mine takes me wherever my phones are, which are in some fantastically interesting places on Center that amazes a curious person like myself. One day I could find myself in the Flight Research hangar, watching mechanics fine-tune a Cessna being converted for autonomous flight, or next to the test section of a acoustics chamber measuring noise levels from a drone propeller. It all fuels my obsessive curiosity and inspires me to keep all these fascinating people connected to each other.

Let’s talk about you working at NASA, what was your reaction and what did others say when you told them you were working for NASA?

I honestly had no idea that the job itself was at NASA-Langley until I got the address for the interview. Ironically enough, my very first contract that I worked on at the beginning of my career was 10 years prior at NASA Langley! I always dreamed of working in the telecommunications office here even though the opportunity more or less fell into my lap as a chance happening.

It’s always surreal, telling people where I work and I could not be prouder of the Agency and its’ work all across the globe. Doing what I do, has given me the opportunity to meet people all over Langley and I still get giddily excited to tell anyone on  the outside about who and what I encounter here. I can’t tell you the number of gifts I’ve given people of things from the NASA-LaRC Exchange! It’s especially satisfying to stoke the curiosity of children into what NASA does because we will *ALWAYS* need more of the brightest minds out there.

One of the the things we want to do in these interviews is talk about the importance of education, especially focusing on STEM subjects. How important is it for children to learn STEM skills and what was your favorite subject during school?

It’s absolutely critical for children today not just to learn STEM subjects, but to encourage them to explore it. As automation and artificial intelligence continues to make rapid progress, we will need an entire generation of young minds unchained by the older preconceptions of “What’s Possible” because that question is evolving faster than anyone ever could have anticipated. We will always have a need for anyone who has a hunger to learn more from any STEM subject!

My favorite subject in school *HAS* to be chemistry. The building blocks of all life depend on chemistry and I always, with a bit of maniacal glee of course, loved watching the really active reactions. (You should totally look for “Mercury Thiocyanate Reaction” on YouTube. Mindblowing :P)

I will definitely check that out. What would you consider your greatest accomplishment in your career?

I’m sure most would answer with a truly moving moment or a huge accomplishment of skill, but mine is much more subtle. The proudest moment of my career was when I was standing alone in the Model Prep Hall of one of the sub-sonic wind tunnels and I looked up to see a cable trough I had installed 10 years earlier as an 20 year old kid with a head of ideas and I always wanted to come back to NASA-Langley to stay and little did I know I’d be in that exact same spot a decade later remembering that moment and looking back at all the hardships and experiences that had gotten me to where I am today.

How amazing is that! Let’s talk about inspiration. What was the best piece of advice that was given to you that has really stuck with you through your life?

I think the best piece of advice was an off-hand comment my Dad told me years and years ago when I was younger and mad about something not going the way I had hoped and saying I regretted doing it at all (The event itself has long since passed my memory :P) but what my Dad told me next was something that has stuck with me and will, for the rest of my days was this: “The only experience you should regret is one you don’t learn from” and it’s stuck with me as a guiding principle since.

There’s so much incredible pressure on children and teenagers today. Not only are they having to navigate childhood and the social pressures from it, but now there is a pressure online for them to cultivate a brand with social media, something that my parents never prepared me for, nor will I be able to fully prepare my son for when the day comes. Every small thing you say and do, especially online, can be scrutinized to the 10th degree, even years after the fact and there’s so much pressure for them not to make mistakes.

Screwing up is part of the human experience and there’s almost always immediate consequences and it’s easy to forget that a negative experience is absolutely something you can learn from. From having jobs we hate or being with people we can’t stand, we learn something just as important as what we want out of life, we learn what we *don’t* want out of life and what we’re not willing to put up with or compromise bits of ourselves for, which is equally important.

Thank you so much Aaron, for talking to us today. I want to end on one last question and it is incredibly serious. If a group of astronauts and a group of cavemen got into a fight, who would win?

I LOVE SILLY QUESTIONS!! 😀 I also think this question is not nearly as silly as it appears and children can learn loads from the answer. Earth has always been a very dangerous place to live. For the 250,000 years we’ve been on the planet as evolved humanity, we have always had to fight tooth and nail just to survive, so early humanity was adapted VASTLY differently to deal with all of the constant danger around us. Early humans were physically developed beyond the peak physical conditioning of even the best Olympic athletes of today, just because of the dangerous way of life.

It absolutely was survival of the fittest and only the strongest, fastest and most durable humans survived by outrunning, outwitting and outhunting its’ competition. It can be easy for us, with our large brains, to look at our ancestors as simple creatures, but they were survival MACHINES capable of what we would consider superhuman physical abilities. So sadly, as smart as our unlucky astronauts are and the amazing amount of things they’re capable of, I think I’d have to hand victory to the cave people if it came down to a simple fight…

 This question reminds me of one of my favorite Youtube videos done by a group called Kurzgesagt, who do WONDERFUL videos that explain otherwise really complicated issues in wonderfully entertaining animations. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGiQaabX3_o and they go more in depth about early humanity that I didn’t think about before I saw it!

Wow! Another victory for the cavemen! Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions for us at Questions To Inspire and thanks everyone for reading. Be sure to check out some of our other interviews and stay tuned for new interviews in the future!

Interview – Voice Acting Allstar – Elise Baughman

Thanks for joining us for another Questions To Inspire!  This week’s guest is voice acting allstar, Elise Baughman.  This one is a big deal for me because when I was working at the Funimation Store (back in the day), the biggest event we had was when Funimation started dubbing Dragonball GT.  It was huge.  We had DVD’s and VHS being sold out, toys, shirts, merchandise shipping all over the world.  And who was one of the biggest starts of DBGT?  Elise Baughman!!!

Good afternoon, Elise!  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. Let’s get it started today with you telling us a bit about yourself.

I’m married, and we have a wonderful little boy in preschool.  Professionally I am an on-camera actress, voice over actress, TV host, and corporate spokesperson.  I love spending time with my family and love what I do!

You have done so many things, but what I know you best from is  voicing Pan from Dragon Ball GT.  I worked at the Zstore (Funimation’s online retail store) when GT came out. It was a pretty big deal. Was Pan your first VO work?

How cool that you worked there when GT came out!  And yes, Pan was one of my first VO jobs.  I had been doing on-camera work and had been performing with an improv troupe but had not done any VO work.  Yet I had always loved animation and was really wanting to get started in voiceover. 

Pan from Dragon Ball GT

The short story of how I booked the role of Pan is that I heard some fellow improv friends talking about their work at Funimation.  I asked them how to audition there; Mike McFarland–a fantastic director and actor (as you know) –was part of that conversation and helped explain how it worked.  

Fast forward to the audition day…I got sick the day of my audition, but I was so excited to be auditioning that I wasn’t going to let that stop me.  And the rest is history!  I booked the role of Pan and have had an absolute blast voicing this character.  I was fortunate that many other roles in animé and animation followed—along with voiceover roles for TV and radio commercials, corporate training videos, children’s books, and other great gigs.  I still am thrilled over every single job I get to do.

What a great career!  I believe whole heartily that VO is true acting, but would you say that VO work is harder or easier than a normal acting job where you yourself are on camera?

You are absolutely right…voiceover is acting; it’s not just about having a good voice like some people may believe.  I would say that VO is almost the same as those jobs where I am myself on camera—or even when I am playing a character on camera.  The same principles apply.  In fact, there have been times in the voiceover booth where I acted as if a camera were right there in front of me. 

When doing voiceover acting, people still hear things in your voice that they may normally see on camera…they can hear your smile, hear your frustration, hear your love of a product, etc.  That’s why I like your question so much…you have to apply acting principles whether you have a mic or a camera in front of you.

What advise would you give someone who wants to learn how to be a  voice actor?

Study, study, study!  That’s what I’ve done since I got started in this business.  I didn’t go to school for acting (I graduated with my degree in accounting and my M.B.A.).  So, when I wanted to explore acting, I started with a class.  And then another class.  And another.

I also talked with everyone I could about the business to find out what worked and didn’t work for them.  I still do this!  I think acting is like any pursuit…you must study, learn your craft, research, understand the business side of things, and work hard.

Also, like any passion someone may want to explore, you may need to “dip your toe in the water”.  I heard this on a podcast recently by Chalene Johnson, and I thought she said it so well.  Dip your toe in the water and see if you like it.  That’s what I did when I started with my first acting class.  I didn’t know at the time that I would become an actor.  I was still working in corporate America and thought it may just be something to get me out of my comfort zone and therefore improve my presentation skills in my then current job as a financial analyst.  I remember saying at the time about my acting class, “I don’t know if I will become an actor one day…or if this will help me in my current job…or if this will help me do something totally different like become a motivational speaker.”  But I tried it.  For me, it led to becoming an actor.  For others, it may be the same.  Or it may become a fun hobby and a nice little escape from a day job.

That is great advice!  I know that you were in a couple of improv  groups, how long did you do that and did you have any unique  characters  that were your go to?

I love improv!  I studied with The Groundlings when I lived in Los Angeles.  In Dallas I went through a similar program created by one of the founding members of The Groundlings.  After going through the 4-level program I performed with the troupe.  And I had a very short stint with another group.  I don’t even know how long I did improv in total since it wasn’t consecutive, but probably about 4-5 years.

The character that seemed to pop up a lot was the nerdy girl who put everything in Excel.  But honestly, that wasn’t much of a stretch.  I did and still do put everything in Excel!  You know the cliché—you can take the girl out of accounting, but you can’t take accounting out of the girl.  Probably the character I loved most was one I co-created for a short film named Patricia Noble.  She was an ex-accountant and mediocre poet who thought she could rap.  Again, it’s not that much of a stretch.  I’ve been known to break out some bad raps on set at my jobs.  Okay, very bad.

I have to ask, I heard you juggle as well!  Is that true?  I had to learn to juggle and do puppets for a job I was on.  I was okay at juggling, but pretty good at puppets.

It’s true…I can juggle!  I learned to juggle at softball practice when I was about 10, and I’ve been able to do it ever since.  It’s not like the circus is after me for my mad skills or anything, but I did recently juggle oranges for a commercial that was shot in a grocery store.

On Questions To Inspire, we want to know what inspired you in your  career choices and in life?

In my career, I wanted to pursue my passion.  After college I found myself in a job where I loved the people but did not love the work.  I felt trapped and knew that accounting was not my calling.  This is such a long story, but the short version of it is that one of my best friends gave me an acting class as a gift.  I loved my acting class and asked myself, “How can I turn this (acting) into a career?”

So, I did all those things I mentioned earlier…I dipped my toe in the water, I studied, I asked questions, I researched, I worked hard…and the list goes on.  And it happened (after lots of hard work)!  Now I am still pursuing my passion.  And I’m very passionate about others being able to do the same.  Some can have their passion be their career.  Some people, I realize, may be in jobs that help them survive; but I still feel they can pursue their passion and their calling in other areas like volunteering or in their personal relationships.

In life, my faith has always been the biggest inspiration and what has pulled me through tough times.  My family and my friends inspire me.  I feel like with faith, family, and friends, I’ve had a solid foundation for celebrating the successes and surviving the struggles.

Do you have any inspirational words that were told to you that you  would care to share with us today?

Absolutely!  I have several “go-to” things that I use frequently and that I’d love to share.

  1. “This, too, shall pass.”  My mom started saying this to me when I was young, and still says this to me today.
  2. There are two questions my husband and I always ask when we are presented with multiple opportunities and choices: “Is it moral and ethical?” and “What gets me closer to my goals?”.  Those 2 questions have helped me make many decisions—from the least to the most difficult.
  3. “Am I on purpose right now?”  Being on purpose could even mean relaxing on the couch after a tough day at work–as long as it’s intentional.  Kevin W. McCarthy, a motivational speaker and author, wrote a book about being on purpose that my husband and I have read multiple times

Finally our silly question, all of Hollywood has come together and they want you to remake any move that you want, but you are the leading  role.  What movie would you remake and what role would you want to  play?

Fun question!  Romantic comedies are my favorite movies to watch, so I’m going to go with “Maid in Manhattan” in the role played by J. Lo.  Just call me E. Bo.

Thanks Elise for taking the time to answer a few Questions To Inspire about Thanksgiving.  Please check out the Elise’s website – elisebaughman.com and you can meet her at many anime convention’s. She posts announcements of upcoming events on her social media – Instagram & Twitter – @EliseBaughman / Facebook – @EliseBaughmanActress .

Thanks everyone for reading Questions To Inspire and check out some of our other interviews!  See you next time!

Paper Bag Puppet – Penguin

Paper Bag Puppet – Penguin

Please enjoy a free craft from Moose Egg Productions.  Now you can make your very own paper bag puppet of a penguin.  Please send us a picture of your kiddos finished puppets  so we can post them on our gallery!

Enjoy!!!

Interview – Puppeteer Matt Turner

I am very excited about this week’s guest on Questions To Inspire.    It is time for another puppeteer interview, this time with Matt Turner!

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Hey Matt, good afternoon!  Go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I started puppeteering when I was three years old when I got Bert and Ernie puppets for Christmas. I did my first puppet show when I was nine for my sister’s third birthday. I then did shows for my church, middle and high school and more birthday parties. I then went to the University of Connecticut and majored in Puppetry. Now I work at Walt Disney World as a puppeteer.

What is your favorite part of doing puppet work?

I enjoy performing as different characters that I wouldn’t be able to do as a human. Also I enjoy the challenge of bringing an inanimate object to life.

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You have worked on the Disney Junior puppet show (before it closed) for how long?  What was your favorite part about that?

I performed in the show for six years. Some of my favorite things was being able to bring to life some iconic characters and meeting and performing with some great puppeteers.

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What advice would you give someone who wants to learn how to be a puppeteer?

I would say study puppeteers, try to take puppeteering workshops, talk to other puppeteers, and learn the basics of puppet building . Always be open to learning and growing as a performer.

And if you want to learn how to make puppets and learn how to puppeteer on camera you can always come to Beyond the Sock workshop http://www.beyondthesock.com.

What are you currently doing as a puppeteer?

Right now I’m performing in three different shows at Walt Disney World. I perform in The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and The Festival of the Lion King. I also do some outside of Disney puppeteering when I have time.

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What Muppet/Sesame Street character best describes you and why?

I think I am a mix of Kermit the Frog and Ernie. I think I am mild mannered and reserved like Kermit but when I feel like it I can be mischievous like Ernie.

Thanks Matt for taking the time to answer a few Questions To Inspire others and thanks everyone for reading Questions To Inspire and check out some of our other interviews!  See you next time!

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Artwork

This is it, we are finally in countdown mode. We are just a few short months away from the release of I Want A Pet Turkey! Our illustrator, J, is working hard on finalizing the illustrations. I am preparing on the kickstarter rewards and working on the publishing and marketing pieces. We are in the thick of it. I wanted to share some awesome behind the scene artwork for you though so you can keep up with what is going on.

Check it out and let us know what you think!