RIP Stephen Hawking 2

The word of science and physics said goodbye to a profound contributor today, on March 14th, 2018.  Let us give thanks for all the contributions from Stephen Hawking.

Besides all of the lessons on quantum mechanics, the mysteries of the universe, and the meaning of time, one of his biggest lessons was that we can all still be a great contributor and communicator for science.  We just have to have the courage and persistence to find our own voice, then find our own unique way to deliver it.

Here’s a short interview Stephen Hawking had with a grad student in planetary science at Cal Tech.  Worth a watch and listen on this memorable day. Spoiler alert – it ends with a hug.


project management fundamentals

Project Management Fundamentals video from TheoriesInPractice 2

When I have asked aerospace engineers or engineering students what topics they want to gain experience in or get a job in, project management is a popular answer.

Project management is an effective and popular way to advance your career beyond a purely technical role in engineering or science.  It’s what I did, so I know it works!

My experience came first from OJT, or on-the-job training.  The title and formal position came later.

It wasn’t until I had worked full time as a project manager for nine years that I decided to obtain my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).  To obtain this certification, a person is required to demonstrate significant work experience as a project manager.  Then they must enroll in and pass a course with 35 hours of instruction (when I write this post).  Specifics can be found at the PMI website.

How can you learn about project management faster and sooner than I did?

How can you gain project management knowledge and experience before you have a job as a project manager?

These are excellent questions!  It’s questions like these that I answer in How To Be a Rocket Scientist.

To be a successful aerospace engineer or professional, it takes more than technical skills. It takes resourcefulness, persistence, creativity, and dedication.

Chances are very good that you are already familiar with project management.  You probably have experience with it too.  But unless you are familiar with the terms and concepts used by project management professionals, you won’t appreciate this experience.

When you don’t recognize and appreciate the experience, chances are great that your future or potential managers or employers won’t either.

On the positive side, when you recognize the activities and functions that are an essential part of project management, you’ll be able to jump on opportunities to gain experience with these things when the situations present themselves.

One very effective and accessible way to gain this project management knowledge and experience is to apply Tip #7: Use free and informal educational resources.

I searched YouTube for some short and effective videos on project management fundamentals.  Each of them has their own benefits and limitations.  The one I believe does an excellent job of explaining the key concepts and expectations of a successful project manager is a 10-minute video from two women at TheoriesInPractice. Watch this video to learn the basics of project management in a short and sweet presentation:

You may have trouble with some of the sound quality.  Their example is with a kitchen remodeling. But the content is excellent, and every project shares the same fundamentals, whether it is a kitchen remodeling project, building the next airplane, or engineering a spacecraft to land on Mars.

Are you someone who wants to learn and do more with project management?  Please let me know with a comment below!  And let me know if there are other things about project management in aerospace or aviation that you want to know about.  I’ll look for resources to help you or ask a follow-up question to find out what you have tried so far.

Thanks for navigating your way here to learn and do more with rocket science!

Learn the 7 habits of highly effective people in under 7 minutes 4

Whether you want to be a rocket scientist or anything else that requires hard work and persistence, success will come when you consistently do the right things to move yourself effectively toward your goals.

A friend of mine and subscriber to this blog (hi David!) referred me to a fantastic YouTube channel called FightMediocrity.  The owner of this channel, Rodney, creates animated summaries of famous and influential books.  Thanks very much for the connection, David!

One of these books, which I’ve also read many years ago and credit to many of my successful habits and results, is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  If you haven’t ever read this book, I highly recommend it. (Stay tuned for an Amazon link.)  You will get an effective and entertaining summary of the book in under 7 minutes by watching the video below.

If you have read the book, I still recommend watching this video as effective positive reinforcement of these powerful principles!

This blog post has been brought to you by Tip #7 from How To Be a Rocket Scientist: 

Use free and informal educational resources!

Thanks for reading, for watching, and for your dedicated interest to do something remarkable in the amazing world of aerospace or aviation!

P.S. Click this link for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change on Amazon. Your purchase through this link is much appreciated!  Your price doesn’t change, but a small percentage of Amazon’s profits get siphoned off to fuel operations here.  That might mean coffee and donuts, but it’s still highly effective!

Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to
FightMediocrity 7 habits of highly successful people

We need more rocket scientists! Watch my welcome video.

You may be wondering–who is this person Brett Hoffstadt? And what is the book How To Be a Rocket Scientist about??

Here is a short video where I say hello and explain why I’m here.  And more importantly, why we need more rocket scientists!! 

Thanks very much for watching!  And thanks for anything you do to make the world a better place with more aerospace achievements or aerospace contibutors!



Rocket science can even make a porta potty rocket

It’s Fun Friday!  Enjoy this YouTube video of people who turned a porta potty into a rocket, complete with a parachute decent system.  Very impressive…I’ve never seen a project as weird and wacky as this, which also had to take a lot of work.  The video is just 1 minute long.


For a more accessible and safe rocket project, you can do it yourself with Estes rocket kits found in hobby stores.  But the best program in the U.S. (that I know of) is Team America Rocketry Challenge:

TARC logo

TARC logo

This is a wonderful program to get kids learning, building, and doing rocket science with hands-on activities that design and build their own rockets in a team setting.  We need more rocket scientists!  If you are above the age for this contest then you’re probably perfect to be a volunteer.

Building and launching your own rocket before you’ve left school is a fantastic way to apply Tips 3, 6, 7, and 9 from my book.  Probably more than that…

Just be sure to stay clear of falling porta potties and make a large safety zone (larger than this team!).  Or be careful about your wind thresholds because that was obviously a factor on this launch.

If you’ve got other funny or fascinating things that have been launched like a rocket, please share with me so we can recognize, celebrate, and enjoy other fun ways to apply rocket science.

Be a rocket scientist with a growth mindset

How to be a rocket scientist if you aren’t there yet?  It will take more than facts and knowledge.  It will take the right mindset.  How to be a better or more successful rocket scientist if you’ve already started?  The right mindset!

Carol Dweck is someone you need to know and listen to (or read) if you haven’t yet.  Even if you have, this 11-minute video from one of her TEDx appearances is a must-see.  It is especially inspiring for teachers and parents.

“Let’s not waste anymore lives.”  That means yours!  And any potential future rocket scientist that might be in your midst.  We need more rocket scientists, and a growth mindset will make it happen.  Rocket scientists with a growth mindset is exactly what we need too.

You can buy Carol Dweck’s best-selling book on Amazon here: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


Flugtag best flights are aviation comedy

For this Fun Friday post, let’s enjoy highlights from Red Bull Flugtag competitions from across the world over the years.


Have you ever been to a Flugtag event?  Or better yet, participated?  Tell us about it!

I’ve really wanted to go to one of these events but it’s never been in a city where I lived.  And making the road trip with small children (or leaving them with the wife) hasn’t been an option.  Not yet anyway.

Flugtag proves that you can have a lot of fun making yourself or other things fly through the air…if you call this flying.  You’ll see the world record (as of this video) had more than some amateur rocket scientist effort involved.

Red Bull has of course been involved as a major sponsor in other (more serious and historic) aerospace events.  Those are worth separate posts in the future.

Happy flying and happy weekend!


Is warp drive possible – from Omaha? 2

I got this story from a good friend and colleague of mine in the aerospace world named Bill (who is deaf BTW, and that’s worth another post later).

You might want to remember the name David Pares.  You definitely want to watch this video and read this article from

David Pares is a professor at the University of Omaha.  He claims to have evidence already of bending space and shortening laser beams with his device in his garage.  The physics is inspired by accounts of pilots who have somehow instantaneously traveled hundreds of miles due to strong storms in the atmosphere (and it’s inspired by Star Trek, of course).

This is yet another reason why we still need more rocket scientists!  Is it really fair to believe that we’ve discovered and harnessed all of the energy and propulsion sources that are possible in this awesome, immense universe?  No, of course not.

It’s impossible to predict when or where (or if) we’ll ever discover warp drive and make it possible.  But it just might come from Omaha.  Or maybe someone reading this blog will have something to do with it…

Also worth asking: can you be deaf and work in aerospace?  Yes indeed!  It ain’t easy.  But then neither is rocket science.

Take care and take charge.

Here is David Pares’ company website for Space Warp Dynamics LLC (perfect name, right?!)


Launch into 2015 like a lean startup 1

Let’s look at the new year as an opportunity for a new start in your career. And think of yourself as the owner or pilot of your own career. After all, if you aren’t in charge of it, who is?!

What I’m really recommending is to think and act like an entrepreneur—even if you are (and want to be) an employee in another company.

If this argument is too abrupt or controversial for you, I hope you’ll stick around. At least for this post, because I’m going to give you a powerful tool that many entrepreneurs and startups are using to be successful in their highly uncertain, competitive, and fast-changing environments. If you think about it, that describes the environment for everyone today, right? Even employees. Even you I bet. So let’s talk about The Lean Startup and how you can use it to set some meaningful goals in 2015 and make valuable progress no matter what your particular situation or goals.

Is it possible to use the lean startup in aerospace? You bet! I used this approach for several projects in my aerospace career and setting. I’ve seen this approach used in other aerospace programs too. Yes, even in a major aerospace corporation it can be used, effectively. That’s because any new project is really a startup, even when it exists in a large organization.

It’s best if I don’t give you details about my aerospace examples. Not for public consumption, you know. But I can understand if you are skeptical or curious. How about another example of using TLS approach in a big, old, bureaucratic organization? Here is a presentation from a public school teacher describing how she used it in her classroom. If you are a teacher (or a parent of a child in school) you need to watch this video especially!

Diane Tavenner – Lean Startup Conference 2012

The Lean Startup approach has been made popular and famous by Eric Ries. He is the author of the book The Lean Startup, which I highly highly recommend. I’ll link to his website at the end of this blog post. There is too much to explain and describe in a single blog post. But here is one key element that I recommend you use when setting goals for 2015.

One central aspect of TLS is cycling through a Build > Measure > Learn loop. This has similarity to the PDCA loop of Lean and 6 sigma (Plan Do Check Act). But here’s the twist and powerful insight: when in the planning phase, you reverse the cycle!

First ask, what do you want or need to LEARN in 2015?

Then ask yourself, what do I need to MEASURE in order to accomplish that learning?

Then ask yourself, what do I need to BUILD (or DO) in order to gain those measurements?

And that provides you the action plan for yourself in the New Year.

Let’s work through an example.

Suppose you want to get an entry-level job in an aerospace company. Reframe this as something you need to learn: how can someone (someone like me) get an entry-level job in an aerospace company?

Now you need to figure out what measurements are needed in order to gain that learning. Here are some possibilities:

  • how many entry-level jobs are there?
  • How many entry-level jobs are made available in certain parameters (timeframe, company, geography, etc.)
  • How have other current entry-level engineers obtained their jobs? (what measurements can I learn from them?)
  • What attributes do aerospace managers look for in entry-level engineers?

There might be other measurements—do the thinking for yourself. I’m just giving you a start.

When you have your list of measurements, from these it should be fairly obvious what actions you need to take or things you need to “build” in order to gain those measurements.

For instance, to learn what the total pool of entry-level jobs is in your city, you’ll need to gather some employer and employment statistics. If you can’t find this out reliably from online searches, you may have to (gasp) call some people or search them out first.

If you want to learn how current engineers have obtained their jobs, you just might have to meet or talk with some of them, won’t you?

If you’ve read my book, this will be a familiar tip to you: one of the best ways to find and interact with the people who can help you with this learning is to find and join a professional society (or more) that hold events in your city. AIAA, AUVSI, SAE, SWE, ASME, AHS…now that you know what measurements you are looking for, you will have a conscious and strategic plan behind your pursuits.

Be sure to remember your people skills and professionalism while you are in pursuit of this learning! Everything in your process should be a part of your learning in fact. Many times when I’ve met someone and tried to learn something about them or from them, I failed or messed up. So I told myself, “well, that didn’t go very well. What can I learn from it? How can I do better the next time?” Sometimes it involved contacting them one more time for an apology, if I got the impression that we had a misunderstanding.

More often (and this is an important thing), I would always follow up with them soon to thank them for talking with me, and express my thanks for meeting them.

It’s also good to keep the focus on them. Instead of asking “can you help me find a job?” you can ask “do you have any needs (or know of any) where someone with my skills and interests would be a benefit?”

If you want more suggestions and examples of how I got better at this, read Tip #10 in my book “How To Be A Rocket Scientist” – appreciate and work on the soft skills.

Through it all, keep the Learn > Measure > Build/Do cycle in mind. If what you are doing isn’t tied directly to gaining a measurement for something that you need to learn in your career pursuit, check yourself and where you are spending your time and energy.

Do you know already what you want to learn in 2015? Share it in a comment below if you are willing to share it. Or if you would like a private master-mind group to work on this plan together, send me a note (after you’ve subscribed to this blog if you haven’t done that yet).

In the comments below I’ll share some of my goals to learn in 2015. Thanks for reading and sharing in the aerospace journey with me. Upward and onward!


The official website of The Lean Startup:

The book on Amazon with recommendations for others on the topic: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Setting goals for 2015: Start with WHY

Attention fellow aerospace travelers!  It’s time to start thinking and talking about goals for 2015.  Don’t fear–this is going to be fun and exciting.  The first step will be to get our heads and hearts around WHY this matters.  Why do you need to set goals for the new year?  Why should you care?

My response is, because WE NEED YOU.  You have strengths, passions, and a position in society that are completely unique to you.  There are things that can be done–people who can be impacted–that only you can do.  It will require initiative, courage, and leadership on your part.

Not sure you’ll be able to find that within yourself?  I can assure you it’s in there.  It just needs a powerful enough reason to activate it.  That’s why we need to start with the WHY.  Watch this TEDx talk from Simon Sinek and then write down your reasons why you need to set some goals for yourself in 2015.  I’ll write next about a powerful tool and process to make progress on those goals, whatever they are.

Start with why – how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound

Simon Sinek TED talk

Simon Sinek TED talk

You can buy his best-selling book on Amazon here: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to