By Sarah Hamad

Ava and Aiden Robertson

Ava and Aiden Robertson pose with "PPE Man" (Photo Credit Lee Roberton [OBATS])

It is not every day that more than a dozen children pull fire alarms in the National Air and Space Museum basement, but that is exactly what happened as part of Bring Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day on April 23, 2015.

The fire alarms, which were manipulated at the start of the day to have low volume, were part of a fire safety display. From 8 am to 11 pm, children could visit this exhibit and five others, which featured a variety of facilities staff and “technology used in maintenance and upkeep of our museums,” according to a Smithsonian online staff announcement that advertised the event.

The fire safety exhibit featured every type of fire safety device found at the Smithsonian, including strobe lights, sprinklers, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers.

Children learned how fire safety was relevant to their own lives. “I let the kids manually activate all of these devices so they can get familiar with these devices, so if they need to do these in a emergency situation at school or at home, they would remember how we showed them that day”, said Fire Safety Technician Smiley Davis.

Those who visited the Office of Business Administration and Technical Services (OBATS) exhibit got an insiders’ look at SI Explorer 3, a geospatial information systems program that is accessible only to Smithsonian staff. The program shows the building layout of every Smithsonian facility.

“[It]allows users to answer questions about facilities size, location, and usage” according to Cartographer Lee Robertson, who also used a GPS to show children how staff collect data for the program.

At a safety exhibit, children took photos with “PPE Man”- a mannequin that sported “personal protective equipment” such as gloves, a hard hat, and a neon vest. They also tested their knowledge with Jeopardy-style game questions and learned about a variety of safety apps.

Other exhibits included an infrared thermography camera table where children could stare back at their own infrared images; a portable Building Automated System ( BAS) unit that demonstrated how SI Technicians monitor all heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in museums, facilities and storage areas throughout the Institute; a custodial staff table that educated children about green cleaning products; and a high voltage electricity table that displayed a jacob’s ladder— a device in which electricity visibly pulsates between two long rods.

Several other exclusive activities occurred for Smithsonian staff and their children throughout the day, including a Living in the Age of Airplanes IMAX show , and a one-hour booking at the interactive Q?rious exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History.

From noon onwards, children either shadowed their parents or participated in a twelve- item scavenger hunt.

Facilities staff Jason Sawyer, Alana Olson, David McCauley, and John Boyd organized the event and plan to do so next year as well.

“Programming like this helps our team educate and build community within the Smithsonian. Connecting our work life to our family helps us be mindful of why we do what we do and work so hard at it,” says Media and Technology Specialist Stephanie Lieberman, who plans to help with the event next year.