The Texas Legends and Bakersfield Jam likely prefer to hit the court with properly inflated basketballs, but Raytheon Company employees know how to put underinflated ones to good use.

Before last week’s 103-96 Legends’ home loss to the Jam, Raytheon volunteers at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco used basketballs and other tools to provide lessons in physics and math to about 300 students from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County.

Rod Chastain, who works in operations at Raytheon Company in McKinney, held up two balls, one inflated properly, the other only about half aired up, and quizzed the children: “Which is going to bounce the highest?”

Two boys guessed that the underinflated one would bounce only half as high.

“You are right,” Chastain told them as he caught the bouncing balls. “It has only half the air pressure.”

The basketball pressure experiment station was one of seven in Raytheon’s Innovation Row, which also offered opportunities for the children to compare their heights, wingspans and hand sizes with such former and current Dallas Mavericks as Shawn Bradley, Dirk Nowitzki and Devon Harris.

“Raytheon employees are very passionate about the career choice they made and that’s engineering,” explained Kim Parks, senior community relations manager for Raytheon in McKinney.

Encouraging children to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), grows naturally out of that, she said.

Elise Sung and her twin sister, both electrical engineers for Raytheon in Dallas, worked two of the Innovation Row stations.

“We enjoy volunteering for these events and encouraging kids to start studying math and science early,” Sung said, while working a station that challenged children to compare hand sizes of several players and guess the difference between the hands of Nowitzki and Harris.

“They make their best guesses, and we just try to encourage them to make sure it’s reasonable,” she said, adding she hopes the students also see the potential opportunities available at companies such as Raytheon.

“There’s a future here if you just keep up with your math and science, make your grades and do your best,” Sung said.

Parks added that Raytheon maintains a relationship with Boys and Girls Clubs of America.With more than 8,000 employees and eight North Texas locations, the company has supported area clubs with Engineering Week events and other activities.

Last year, women volunteered at multiple club locations to mentor girls and demonstrate the types of opportunities available for those willing to pursue STEM studies.

For last week’s Charity Jersey Night event, 1,200 employees made requests for tickets and the partnership with the Legends provided seats, T-shirts and more for the Boys and Girls Clubs students.

With chants of “Let’s go Legends,” the corner section holding the students proved loudest in the early minutes of the game as other fans were still making their way into the arena.

Parks said it was great to see their enthusiasm for the game and as well as for the pregame STEM activities aimed at showing them how math and science are behind such activities as basketball.

“Music, sports – there’s math and science in everything you love to do,” she said.

Among the stations, one where the students could test their leaping abilities to see how their reaches compared with the likes of NBA stars such as LeBron James proved particularly popular, drawing a crowd as several took their turns.

“Most of these kids are real excited about basketball … so when they have the opportunity to display their ability, they are not bashful about it,” Chastain said. “We just try to teach them a little about gravity, too.”

The students got lessons in the difference their heights might make and the value of emptying pockets and putting down backpacks before taking a jump.

None reached the 106 inches shown for James, but two students – one about 6-feet tall, another much shorter, reached 101.5 inches, Chastain said. “One had the height. One had the hops.”

Follow William Taylor on twitter @friscoupdates

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