COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. --
For the love of science.
This could be the reason behind almost everything Tech. Sgt. William Tidwell does every day. He is a cyber-transport technician with the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron. Tidwell ensures computer networks can talk, whether locally or through long-haul communication. In layman's term, he compared his job to a highway system.
"We make sure that the highway system is functioning well so that the car, which is your data, can get from one point to another," Tidwell said.
This ability to convey scientific and highly-technical information into something a grade-school student could understand is essential for his volunteer work as a tour guide at the Space Foundation Visitors center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"It is a way for me to convey my level of appreciation for science and space," the Fort Worth, Texas, native said. "I want to communicate that to kids and try to spark their interest in this stuff. I think learning science is very important."
According to the foundation's website, the organization is a global, nonprofit leader in space awareness activities, educational programs that bring space into the classroom and major industry events.
"The Space Foundation's mission is to advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable and propel humanity," said Janet Stevens, the foundation's vice president for marketing and communications.
Tidwell said he volunteered at the foundation to help spread science and space awareness.
"This is a space-based community with everything that we do here, between Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases," he said. "It was just something I thought would be pretty cool to give back and enlighten people on science."
His gig as a tour guide began after he volunteered at the National Space Symposium last year.
"Because I enjoy science and space so much, I wanted to be a part of it," he said. "I volunteered in any way I could."
He met with the person who ran the volunteer program for the foundation and expressed his desire to do more than just a one-time event.
"She said they are turning the visitors center into something like a museum, and that they were looking for people to be tour guides," Tidwell said. "I love communicating science to people."
Tidwell volunteers as a tour guide two days a month on five hour shifts. Most of the time, people just want to tour the visitors center and browse around for themselves.
"They don't really want you to be in their face," he said. "It's not like a furniture store where a staff follows you everywhere you go. You introduce yourself, you let them know the services you're capable of providing and you take it from there."
For larger tours, it is different. Tour guides have to shepherd everyone to avoid chaos.
"If you let 10-year-olds roam round, it's not going to be fun trying to keep them from the exhibits," Tidwell said. "I wouldn't be a tour guide anymore; I would be a sitter."
To lead the tours, Tidwell had to learn information on the exhibits as well as how to secure the exhibits. For some, providing tours may be a daunting task due to the public speaking, however, not for Tidwell.
"I'm very comfortable with public speaking; I've done it in the military, or working as a salesman at sporting goods store or being a server and bartender," he said. "I've always been comfortable dealing with people. [In reference] to the military or doing something like this, especially on the subject I enjoy speaking about, it just comes natural."
Stevens said the volunteers are very important and she appreciates all the work they provide for the Space Foundation.
"Volunteers are essential to every aspect of what we do, from our daily operations and staffing our visitors center, to helping us prepare for and present our annual National Space Symposium," she said. "A cadre of dedicated volunteers, many with extensive space background, work both behind the scenes and on the floor at the Space Foundation Visitors Center. Their support and enthusiasm are invaluable and greatly appreciated."
Tidwell said he likes volunteering at the foundation because it's fun and educational. It doesn't necessarily become something people look at as a job.
"I view it more as a cool thing that I get to do with other perks just because I like science," Tidwell said. "I like meeting new people. I like branching outside the Air Force. I'm a people person. To me, I have these people with whom I can share my passion for science and space. You get to meet people in public, and represent the military. That part of it is cool."
The visitor center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and the first Saturday of the month. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students with identification, $2 for children ages 4-17 and free for children 3 and under and military personnel. For more information, visit http://www.spacefoundation.org/visit