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Jonas Dino
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: (650) 604-5612 / 9000

May 22, 2006
NASA Engineer Honored as One of the '100 Most Important Hispanics'
A NASA engineer who inspires thousands of students with the refrain, "It's all about the math!" is being recognized by a top Hispanic magazine.

Mark Leon, education director at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is featured in the spring issue of Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology magazine. Leon is one of the magazine's '100 Most Important Hispanics' in technology and business for 2006. The honorees are chosen for their outstanding work in the field of technology and demonstrated leadership, both at the workplace and in their communities.

"Mark Leon's energy, hard work and humor are a major inspiration not only to students and teachers, but to everyone who comes into contact with him," said Michael Marlaire, director of external relations and development at NASA Ames. "There is no better advocate for what NASA is all about than Mark Leon."

The honorees will be recognized Sept. 15, 2006, at the Baltimore Convention Center during an awards dinner and colloquium that will discuss how to increase minority participation in the 'digital economy.'

During Leon's distinguished career, his most far-reaching accomplishment is the development of the Robotics Alliance Project (RAP), under the direction of Dave Lavery, NASA program executive for solar system exploration. This project has reached out to more than 100,000 middle and high school students in the United States and abroad.

The project has developed partnerships with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (KPIR) and other robotics organizations to promote math, science, engineering and technology through a series of national and international robotics competitions. With his NASA jacket and blue-tinted hair, Leon is the energetic MC of many of these regional and national robotics competitions. At the 2006 FIRST Silicon Valley Regional Tournament he received the Outstanding Volunteer award for his work on behalf of the students.

During his NASA career, Leon has made numerous technical accomplishments.

In the 1980s, Leon was instrumental in the development and implementation of trans-Atlantic communication links between NASA and the European and French space agencies. During the 1990's, he developed innovative communications prototypes and completed the first audio/video link to Antarctica, a feat thought to be technically impossible. On the other end of the world, Leon implemented the first high-speed Internet link to the Arctic and conducted a series of live broadcasts from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star.

"It has been my life's ambition to work for NASA and make an impact on the lives of students," said Leon. "I'm greatly honored to be considered in such highly esteemed company."

Outside the work arena, Leon is an accomplished martial artist in judo and tae kwon do, taking the silver medal in the 1985 Collegiate National Judo Championships. He is currently passing on his love of martial arts to the next generation as a second degree Tae Kwon Do instructor. Recognizing the necessity of continually giving back to the community, Leon spends much of his spare time building rockets with Youth at Risk, based in East Palo Alto and East San Jose, Calif.

Leon lives in Sunnyvale, Calif., with his wife Pamela and their three talking parrots.


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