Wives of State Legislators Have Explosive Time in College Station »

It’s not every day that state legislators’ wives detonate explosives. But last spring, Beverly Ogden, wife of Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) and president of the Senate Ladies Club, and Michelle Dunnam, wife of Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) and president of the Legislative Ladies Club, did just that at a demonstration of the Texas Engineering Extension Service’s Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) site at Texas A&M University’s Riverside Campus.

The demonstration was part of The Texas A&M University System’s Legislative Ladies Day held in College Station on March 4. More than 60 wives of Texas legislators took part in the biennial event, which introduces the wives of Texas House and Senate members to the educational, research and extension programs of the A&M System. Under the watchful eye of TEEX personnel, Mrs. Ogden detonated an impressive distractionary fireball. Mrs. Dunnam followed by setting off a charge that blew a sizable hole through a doorframe.

The demonstrations were examples of some of the tactics taught at the UXO school, and used by SWAT teams and police in extreme situations such as hostage and terrorist threats. After an explosive morning, the group headed over to the testing tracks at the Texas Transportation Institute’s Proving Grounds Research Facility. Nearly 2,000 full-scale crash tests have been performed since TTI began testing in 1965.

Today, researchers continue to conduct crash tests on a variety of safety devices, crash cushions and barrier systems with a wide spectrum of vehicles from subcompacts and three-quarter-ton trucks to 80,000-pound tractor trailer rigs. TTI also utilizes advanced computer simulation to economically enhance the validity of many tests.  The attendees witnessed a late-model Chevy Silverado crash through a guardrail at 62 ½ miles per hour. The purpose of the experiment was to test the strength of the old guardrail technology with a late-model car. Researchers expected the rail to hold and the truck to skid to a stop parallel to the rail. Instead, the truck crashed through the rail and rolled over. T

he test results provided researchers at TTI with necessary data to address safety issues with the rail, said TTI director Dennis Christiansen after the wreck. The unexpected outcome didn’t dampen the spectators’ enthusiasm for the agency or the system. Billie Hopson, wife of Rep. Chuck Hopson (D-Jacksonville), said, “I have so much pride as a Texan to have a university that does all that it does. There are great opportunities that students of Texas can stay here and get such a global, superior education.” Porter S. Garner, president and CEO of The Association of Former Students, hosted a luncheon for the visitors, which included Regent James

P. Wilson. Guests were serenaded by the Singing Cadets and viewed a video about the A&M System. Dr. Brett Giroir, vice chancellor for research, gave a presentation about current and future research projects within the A&M System, and the importance of giving exceptional researchers the tools they need to succeed.

After lunch, the group headed to TTI headquarters where they saw a demonstration of the Translink Lab, which monitors traffic flow in Bryan and College Station in real time.

Julie Straus, wife of House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), said, “Today was so incredibly informative as we learned about the work going on at these research facilities. I’m so excited to see the contributions the A&M System makes to the nation and the world.”

“This event is a way to showcase the education, service and research going on within the A&M System,” said Lou Ann McKinney, wife of A&M System Chancellor Michael D. McKinney. “I think many of the wives were surprised to learn how much we do—and that a lot of what we do and contribute to the state and the nation happens outside the classroom.”