Meet Rad Rhonda: Space Center Houston's colorful teacher

Rose-Ann Aragon reporting.

HOUSTON – Space Center Houston will be saying farewell to a beloved member of its team.

For more than 16 years, Rad Rhonda has been creating smiles and inspiring curiosity about science at Space Center Houston, the Johnson Space Center's official Visitor's Center located just on East NASA Parkway.

It's not too late to see Rad Rhonda. Her last show is Oct. 4.

Meet Rad Rhonda

Rhonda Brumenschenkel started her journey in education at Space Center Houston 16 years ago.

"Sixteen years and eight months ago, I needed a job. So I said, 'Gee, I know Space Center Houston. I've been here before,' and I knew that Space Center did little intros into their movies and things, and I like to be in front of people. So when I got here, they interviewed me, but also for education," Brumenschenkel said. "My first year, I started in February, and that summer, there was summer camp, so I decided to be a counselor for summer camp, and that's basically how I got my name 'Rad Rhonda,' and after that I stayed in the education department."

During that time, she said, she realized that teaching children was her passion.

"I just loved working with kids so much that I did hour classes, anything dealing with kids. Then, one day, somebody said, 'Hey, maybe you should do a little show. I said, 'Sure, why not,'" she said.

Little did she know, that show would become her life's passion.

"It's the best job ever. I think I was born to be Rad Rhonda," Brumenschenkel said. "Science is fun. You just have to make it fun."

What started out as short 20-minute shows soon became hourlong shows at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. every day at Space Center Houston.

In a tie-dye lab coat, blue eye shadow and rainbow-colored shoes, no guest could mistake who the bright Space Center Houston educator was.

"I'm Rad Rhonda!" Brumenschenkel laughed.

She said she works in the coolest place.

"It's the ultimate science lab," Brumenschenkel said.

Her show was a culmination of many of the lessons she had taught in roles prior, combined with her love of making children smile.

"When I talk to them, I usually look right at them. I want them to feel what I'm feeling at that moment, and that's usually a lot of joy and a lot of excitement," Brumenschenkel said.

Her experiments are interactive and explore concepts such as mass and matter, air pressure, vacuums, chemical reactions and more. One crowd favorite is her experiments with liquid nitrogen.

"Einstein says, 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it,' and so I've tried to be very simple in my explanations and very animated and just kind of engaging," Brumenschenkel said.

Her shows, of course, include lots of audience participation and volunteering.

"They enjoy seeing that, too, and I think, even as adults, it's a new learning experience," Brumenschenkel said.

Now, she said, she is sad to leave her Space Center Houston family.

"I will miss them all. I really thank them," Brumenschenkel said.

She still has some time left before her last show on Oct. 4. She will perform every day Monday through Friday, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

"We need to get people engaged. We need to get people excited about science," Brumenschenkel said.

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