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I have been an aeronautical engineer for almost 35 years. I have worked at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, for more than 25 years and have worked on many interesting fluid mechanics problems. Currently, I'm working with the Education Programs Office to develop interactive software to help students learn about math and science through an interest in aerodynamics and propulsion.

Career Information

I was born and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. My engineering career began with an early interest in airplanes and space flight. In grade school during the 1950's, I read science fiction stories, watched sci-fi movies, built a lot of models and flew paper airplanes, kites, wooden gliders, and rubberband-powered aircraft. In high school in the early 1960's, I was pretty good at math, science, and language arts, and built a toy computer for a science fair project. In 1965 I entered Ohio State University majoring in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and graduated in 1971 with Bachelor's and Master's of Science Degrees. As a graduate student, I created a computer model of the flow of blood through the capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body.

From 1971 to 1975 I served as an enlisted man in the United States Air Force. I was assigned as a project engineer in the Inlet Aerodynamics Group of the Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, in Dayton, Ohio. It was a very busy and exciting time as I participated in the wind tunnel testing and performance assessment for the B1-A, F-16, and YF-17 (later to become the Navy F-18). I was also on the source selection team for the Air Combat Fighter (F-16) and the EF-111.

When my military service was completed, I returned to Ohio State to work on a Ph.D. I passed my general exams, but took a job with NASA in 1978 and did not submit a dissertation. Early in my NASA career, I built and used computational models for flow through hypersonic propulsion systems and microgravity flow experiments. I worked on the National Aero Spaceplane (NASP) project and the Tank Pressure Control (TPC) experiment that flew on the Shuttle. I twice applied to become an astronaut, but was not selected.

Current Work

More recently, I have developed the interactive computer programs FoilSim, EngineSim, RocketModeler and KiteModeler and the Beginner's Guide web sites to help students learn about math and science. I often participate in videoconferencing workshops with both teachers and students, and I like to attend air shows and exhibits to meet the public.

I have an interest in history and during the recent 100th anniversary of the Wright brother's first flight, I've built computer models of the Wright aircraft and interactive simulators of their flight control systems and wind tunnel. I have given a number of presentations around the country as Wilbur Wright, with Roger Storm, a science teacher from Fairview Park High School, as Orville. In these presentations, we describe the six year process which lead from early kite experiments to the first practical aircraft.

Tom and Roger as Wilbur and Orville

Please send suggestions/corrections to: Thomas.J.Benson@nasa.gov

Responsible NASA Official: Tom Benson

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