RESET Volunteer Oscar Wiygul – A Profile

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When Oscar Wiygul volunteers at Clopper Mill Elementary school in Gaithersburg, he believes he is filling a void that was missing in his own childhood. “If I had found science more relatable when I was a kid, I think I would have become more engaged much earlier. The Neil DeGrasse Tysons and Carl Sagans of this world are very impressive, but they are academics, and for most kids they seem way out of reach. Children can’t relate to someone at that level. That’s why it’s so important to have someone they can connect with, who makes it fun for them. The only thing I had growing up was Bill Nye the Science Guy. I wish I’d had RESET.”

Oscar works at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is a short distance from Clopper Mill. Working multiple shifts, he sometimes goes from work to the school or from the school to work. Oscar has worked at NIST for about 18 months as a Nuclear Engineering Technician, which requires that he have a Senior Reactor Operator’s license. This builds upon the three previous years he spent in the U.S. Navy as a “Machinist Mate,” which required special training in reactor physics and calculations. It was in the Navy that he developed an affinity for outreach work, participating in blood drives through the Red Cross and neighborhood cleanups through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office. He knew when he got back to civilian life, he wanted to continue this work and RESET seemed the perfect fit.

In the middle of his first term with RESET, he has covered a variety of topics that he worried might be a bit beyond Cassandra Mitchell’s 5th grade class, including motor and generator theory, how memory is stored in a computer’s hard drive, and a 3D modeling project on earthquakes. “I’ve been surprised by how the kids have taken to the concepts so fervently,” shares Oscar. “They are so excited to have me there. I try to keep the discussion light and not too technical. That way, they are free to be more creative and imaginative.”

Although Oscar had never taught before, he feels a course he took with Toastmasters International helped him a lot in feeling at ease with the children and finding ways to keep them engaged. One of his favorite RESET moments was when he was just coming off the midnight shift at work. He arrived at the school bleary-eyed, weary and wondering how he’d make it through his session. When he walked down the hall, children from his class began calling out: “Mr. Oscar, Mr. Oscar,” clearly delighted to see him. He didn’t have trouble finding the energy after that.

In spite of Oscar’s busy work and volunteer schedule, he is taking online courses to get his B.S. Applied Science degree in Nuclear Energy Engineering. He is also training for a Spartan obstacle race in August and his girlfriend is helping him to learn Vietnamese.

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