Former NFL player turned astronaut Leland Melvin speaks with students at ExploraVision

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Bright minds of the present are colliding with bright minds of the future in Washington this week. Students from across the country are showing off their inventions at a science competition and former NFL player-turned-astronaut Leland Melvin is there to help inspire them.

Leland Melvin says adults need to start listening to the creative ideas of children.

“They probably have the most creativity because, you know, the creativity hasn’t been worked out of them yet,” said Melvin.

He knows the meaning of “touchdown” well. The Lynchburg, VA native was drafted by the Detroit Lions, got hurt, but had a solid backup plan.

“A buddy of mine said, ‘Hey, you’d be a great astronaut.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, right,’” said Melvin.

He was right. Melvin has flown to space twice. He credits his extensive education for the opportunities he has had. Now, he is spreading his message to the students in ExploraVision, a nationwide science competition where kids develop products of the future.

“The more exposure we have to these different types of careers and things, we can be more than just a ballplayer or a rapper. We can do anything,” said Melvin.

Kaidance Jenkins and Ethan Morris, 9-year-olds from Stanardsville, Virginia, are trying to change the world. They invented a watch that detects if someone is allergic to a food.

“You stick it into the food for a tiny sample,” said Morris demonstrating how his watch would work

Their love for science comes from their desire to do good things for people.

“Some people want to make a difference in the world. And we are really going to make a difference in the world by the ‘Aller Watch,’” said Jenkins.

Their imagination is what Melvin loves about this generation of innovators.

“We should probably listen because these ideas could be the result of saving lives or building the next transportation system to get to Mars,” said Melvin.

ExploraVision concludes Friday night with a closing gala. Melvin is one of the speakers for the event. Another speaker is Bill Nye The Science Guy.