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Center Snapshot: Trevor Grondin
Trevor Grondin. Image above: Trevor Grondin played "Chances," by Five for Fighting for the agency's newest NASA FIRST group of 40 on Monday in NASA Langley's Reid Conference Center. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

Trevor Grondin, a flight systems engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center, strummed his acoustic guitar as he sang about chances. He knows a thing or two about taking them.

"Chances are we'll find a new equation.
"Chances roll away from me.
"Chances are all they hope to be."

Those Five for Fighting lyrics spoke to his own life.

"There are a couple of places in my life where I looked at the options and decided what I could do," Grondin said. "The risks I took have had major benefits for me."

He completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Clarkson University in upstate New York. Three years later, while working for a software company, he became restless. He was ready to take a chance.

He could have pursued a graduate degree in engineering, but instead, he applied to the Berklee College of Music and was accepted. Within 2 1/2 years, Grondin had earned a degree in songwriting and another in contemporary writing and production.

"I could have put music by the wayside, but I wanted to do more than play guitar on my back porch every Saturday," he said.

With those degrees, he writes for orchestra musicals and does commercial work.

His full-time job at NASA taps into his engineering side. His concentration is in composite structures, currently lightweight space structures and materials for inflatable habitats.

Engineering had been a clear direction for him in high school – with no thanks to his placement test, which directed him to become an actor, a musician and an engineer.

He took a fast-track advance placement physics class and did well with his exam placement. The summer between his junior and senior years in high school, he designed a generator that would run as an electric engine for a car. In August, Discover Magazine released an article titled, "Reinventing the Wheel," which was about James Bitterly, who had built a similar product, but with 20 more years of research behind it.

"I was seeing my prototype come to fruition, and I was doing this at 16 years old," Grondin said. At least that part of life had been a no-brainer for him.

He realized his love of music in high school as a concert band member. He also joined a jazz band and began studying music and writing on his own.

While in Florida on a band trip he was making a call to his parents after arriving safely at his hotel when his conversation about a musical piece with a friend, Martha, was cut short.

As she walked away, Grondin took a risk. He ran down the hallway after her and shouted to her as an elevator door was closing. He wanted the conversation to continue.

It did, and 10 ten years later, Martha became his wife.

"You can either fail while trying or fail while not trying," Grondin said.

He never let his chances roll away.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman