SOFIA program manager Bob Meyer explains highlights of the astronomy program to students at the 2009 Bohn-Meyer Math and Science Odyssey. (NASA Photo by Tom Tschida) SOFIA program manager Bob Meyer was a special guest speaker at the 2009 Bohn-Meyer Math and Science Odyssey, a one-day workshop for middle school students designed to encourage interest in math, science and technology.
Meyer's late wife, Marta Bohn-Meyer, who perished in an aerobatic flying accident in September 2005, had been a strong supporter of math and science education, leading Dryden officials to name the semi-annual event the Bohn-Meyer Math and Science Odyssey in her honor.
In opening remarks, Meyer told area students gathered Feb. 6 at Antelope Valley College about his wife's desire to see them excel, and encouraged them to imagine the possibilities of a career as pilot, engineer or astronaut.
"Marta would tell you to aim high – your attitude in life will determine the altitude you achieve," he said. "When opportunity knocks, open the door and walk through it."
Meyer told students his own story of turning childhood dreams into success at NASA, and encouraged them to do the same.
"What kind of things can you not wait to do in your free time?" he queried. "Really think about that."
Meyer's story began when a NASA recruiter visited the high school he attended in the 1970s. At 14, he recalled, he was an avid model plane enthusiast and "would rather fly my models than eat." He later joined the agency as a student engineering intern and went on to fly in the storied SR-71 Blackbird before becoming a center administrator. Bohn-Meyer was a flight engineer on the SR-71 and made history as the first woman to fly at triple-sonic speeds.
Together and separately, Bob and Marta's lives give the students much to aspire to. As Meyer gave a brief outline of the SOFIA – Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – program now under way at Dryden, he showed the group a model of the aircraft and an artist's conception of the flying laboratory's interior. He encouraged his listeners to imagine themselves working with the aircraft one day as pilot, astronomer or support technician.
From left, Jennifer Cole, Aeronautics and Propulsion branch chief in the Dryden Aeronautics Mission Directorate, pilot Jim Smolka and operations engineer Leslie Molzahn answer student questions about flight. (NASA Photo by Tom Tschida) "The SOFIA project has a life span of 20 years," he reminded them. "You could be one of the people who will be part of it."
"Be persistent; don't give up, and share your enthusiasm."
For their day's activities, students chose from among 18 workshops in the fields of engineering, meteorology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. Among the day's highlights was a "NASA Mission Control" demonstration led by engineer Jennifer Cole in which students posed questions to pilot Jim Smolka and operations engineer Leslie Molzahn. The two flew an airborne activity during the morning workshop in which questions were fielded via communications link. Also on hand was engineer Bruce Cogan, who guided students through F-18 flights on Dryden's simulator.
Odyssey sponsors and contributors include Dryden; the AERO Institute; the Air Force Flight Test Center; the Air Force Research Laboratory; and the American Association of University Women.