With the loud speaker crackling a bold unforgettable voice gave the animated introduction to the ceremony. That voice belongs to Peter Cullen, better known as the voice of Optimus Prime in the Transformers series of movies as well as the popular cartoon of the 1980s. Students in the audience 5th thru 12th grades applauded, whistled, and stood up when advised that Optimus Prime was close by. What they did not realize was the man behind the voice was sitting in the front row waiting to be introduced later.
The contest is run by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Innovative Partnerships Office in Greenbelt, Md., and aims to raise student awareness of how NASA technologies provide benefits to the public, as well as show the similarities with the popular Optimus Prime character from Hasbro’s Transformers brand. Students nationwide in grades 3-12 were able to participate in this year’s contest.
Dr Amber Straughn, an Astrophysicist and Lead Scientist for The James Webb Space Telescope, gave the students an overall description of the telescope project. She pointed out ‘just like in the transformer movies the telescope is folded into the spacecraft for launch, then once in orbit it unfolds’. She explained that this telescope was ‘their telescope’ pointing to the crowd ‘as you will be in high school when it is launched in 2018.’
Then came the moment the students were waiting for, Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime, walked up to the microphone and spoke in that unique voice, giving the students a brief talk on the future. Then taking questions, he answered in his normal voice, which surprised a few of the younger ones. One student asked how he was able to get the voice job. He answered “my brother Larry asked me where I was going, and I answered to do an audition for a truck voice. A truck he said? Then it has to be bold like a Marine Drill Sargent. And that’s what I did, I made the voice sound like Capt. Larry Cullen USMC. My brother now deceased.” He finished with a rendition of other voices he used during his career.
Then the awards were presented :
3rd-5th Grade winner $250.00 each
Mrs. LaChance’s Sunrise Elementary School Orlando Video “ Eagle Eyes
ultraviolet-lens blocking enhanced vision.”
6th-8th Grade winner $5,000.00 scholarship
Valencia Fu’s video “A Beautiful Earth, with the help of micro-organisms”
9th-12th Grade winner $ 10,000.00 scholarship
Alexis Salcedo video “Nasa-2012 Nano materials transform hairstyling tool”
Following the awards presentation there was a musical performance by Ansel Brown singing his song ‘when we fly’. Once completed he announced the Rocket21 Song Contest Winner, 17 year old Oregon High School student Moranda Rasmussen for her song ‘Fly’ which he will record in June with her.
The day concluded with a video message from the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. All-in-all, not a bad way to inspire children to pursue their dreams.