Hey rocket science and aerospace career trailblazers! The recording of my appearance on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston is now available at this link. The show aired on Friday, February 20th, 2015. His page has a nice summary of the show. If you want to jump right into the MP3 playback click here. The total program is 62 minutes long.
Thanks again to David for having me as a guest on his show! And for everyone who wrote in with questions! I’ll repeat those questions here (paraphrased) with my latest answer. Please write a comment below to keep the discussion going or to add to the list!
Charlie in Cleveland, Ohio asked, Do you hear kids saying math is too hard? (Is math a reason why I shouldn’t be an aerospace engineer?)
Me: I have heard that expressed. But there’s two important questions in response:
What are you passionate about? Whether it’s math or something else about aerospace, use that as the fuel to drive your learning and persistence.
Second, what is it about aerospace or rocket science that excites you? It’s ok to find math a difficult subject and still love rocket science. And still pursue a career with it, even. Don’t misunderstand– there are lots of jobs in aerospace that do require an advanced math background. But there are also a lot that don’t. And maybe your difficulties are more from the way you’ve been exposed to math (or not exposed), not math itself. Let’s acknowledge that the ways math is being taught in schools today has quite a bit of controversy. There are parents with relevant college degrees who have difficulty understanding the logic behind some instructions and methods…I want to avoid the controversies here. But let’s remember that Einstein was a lousy math student when he was in school!
Robert in El Paso, Texas asked: What kind of student feedback or interest have you seen about their desire to work in “new space” startups versus the “old guard” companies and organizations? (How can I work in an aerospace company like that?)
Me: The commercial and private space sector definitely has brought increased publicity and ‘sex appeal’ to the aerospace world. As well as with the wider public audience. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Bigelow, Virgin Galactic, and others are held up as leaders and icons here. In my opinion, this increase in entrepreneurial activity is a great thing–for the aerospace industry and for people outside of it who will benefit (new customers and users). It is also putting new pressures on the older, established companies. I still see these famous and historic organizations having strong and steady appeal and attraction to young job seekers too (NASA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Launch Alliance or ULA). With all of them, I’ve seen a shift to more entrepreneurial attitudes and skills. That’s why in Tip #8 (Know how to apply for a job), a lot of space is dedicated not just for basic job hunting skills, but also taking a more innovative and entrepreneurial approach to this task. (By the way, if you haven’t ordered my complete book yet, you can request this chapter or another as a free sample at this link here.)
Alex in Houston, Texas asked, My son is in high school. Are there any aerospace internships available for high school students?
Me: I’m not aware of any nation-wide or summer-long aerospace internships for high schoolers. But if there are any out there, please let me know with a comment below! There are several excellent options or alternatives, however. In Tip #7 (Use free and informal education resources) I list several types of summer camps or after school programs. Science museums have summer camps. Every major city probably has a robotics camp (or see US First Robotics). There are other competitions like Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Do a Google search for “STEM summer camp [your city]” and see what you find. Many of these aren’t free, I realize. I made the point that I am a HUGE proponent and fan of internships and co-op assignments. My co-op assignments paid off tremendously for me, in many way. You’ll read and learn more about those in Tip #6 (Consider a short take-off (STO) into the workplace). Again, if anyone knows of any opportunities or programs like those for high school students, please share them with me so I can pass the word along more!
John in Dallas, Texas asked: Have you considered making a workbook or classroom guide on How To Be a Rocket Scientist?
That’s an intriguing question and idea John! My answer was no–not yet. It could be worth considering. As I said on the program, if I saw or heard of a strong desire or clear need for it, I would investigate it more. We both acknowledged that working with AIAA and their STEM/K-12 outreach initiative would make a lot of sense if anything were to happen there. (They already offer a lot of great curriculum items and teacher resources through that.) David asked about a companion DVD. If you have thoughts about this, please chime in with a comment below!
Finally, Jack in Seattle, Washington asked: Do you ever hold office hours? Could there be an online chat session with a rocket scientist or aerospace engineer?
That’s another great question and idea! Thanks for asking Jack. My answer there again is no–not yet. I have seen this happen (and participated myself) in many versions of this. Google hangouts, Twitter chats, video webinars…I could see it happening. The issue here again is, how much interest and desire is there for it? And who would want to participate? If that’s you reading this, tell me in a comment below! I won’t know unless you speak up. (Subscribing to my blog is another great way to find out about any future plans and programs.)
Thanks again for everyone who listened to the show! I hope it provided some useful tips for you or people you are thinking about. Don’t be shy about asking more questions or sharing more resources to help people enter the aerospace field. It’s not an easy path, but it’s exciting, rewarding, and we still need more rocket scientists!
Also, thanks again to the friendly and helpful team at Cafe Commerce in San Antonio for providing the space and phone system for me to use for the show!
Take care and take charge.