Marshall Engineer among NASA Workers to Join President Obama, NASA Administrator Bolden for Live Education Webcasts Sept. 8
Marshall Center engineer Chris Randall.

Marshall Center engineer Chris Randall. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, students, educators and parents across the country will hear inspiring messages about the importance of staying in school from President Barack Obama, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden… and Marshall Space Flight Center engineer Chris Randall.

The President is no stranger, and many audience members may be familiar with Bolden, a former space shuttle commander who flew to space four times between 1986 and 1994.

Randall, an aerospace engineer in the Valves, Actuators & Ducts Design & Development Branch of the Marshall Center's Engineering Directorate, may be unfamiliar at first. But after he and nine other NASA employees from field centers around the nation have spent an hour talking about how they came to work for NASA and what they do every day to support the nation's space program, students are unlikely to forget him.

The live NASA Webcast with Bolden, STS-128 astronauts Jose M. Hernandez and John D. Olivas, and the 10 NASA team members -- one from each field center -- will be delivered via NASA's Digital Learning Network from 1-2 p.m. CDT. It follows a live Web broadcast by President Obama at 11 a.m. CDT.

The president will speak to students about the importance of persisting and succeeding in school, to be broadcast live from the White House at http://www.whitehouse.gov. The Department of Education is encouraging educators, students and parents to use the opportunity to help students get focused and begin the school year strong.

Obama said the purpose of the Webcast is to share with young people all across the country "the importance of staying in school, how we want to improve our education system and why it's so important for the country. I hope everybody tunes in."

Randall, 31, is sure to make an impression as Marshall's representative during the Digital Learning Network Webcast. He graduated from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville in 2006 with a degree in mechanical engineering and a special focus on aerospace propulsion. He had worked as a co-op at the Marshall Center since 2005, and joined the center full-time after he finished college.

He knew much earlier, however, that he wanted to pursue a career in the space program. "I remember watching space shuttle launches on television in my classroom as a kid," he says. "We'd sit there, excited and awed, as the shuttle went up. That made me want to be an astronaut, and that desire led me to pursue advanced math and science classes."

Today, Randall credits a lot of hard work in school -- and the help of many dedicated supporters, including his mother and numerous teachers -- for achieving the success he's found as a NASA engineer. In his daily routine at Marshall, he supports the design and development of various propulsion system components for the Ares I rocket, NASA's next-generation flagship launch vehicle, and also contributes to development of the ascent stage for the Altair Lunar Lander -- the vehicle that will ferry future explorers to and from the surface of the moon. He also has worked on life support systems for the International Space Station and he even spent time supporting the space shuttle program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

He also finds time to work with the Marshall Center's Office of Academic Affairs as a mentor and recruiting assistant, sits on the Industry Advising Committee at Alabama A&M and is a participant in NASA’s Foundations of Influence, Relationships, Success and Teamwork program, or "FIRST" -- a year-long NASA leadership development program.

He hasn't made it to space yet, but he's proud to have supported programs that regularly send others on missions of exploration and discovery.

"And I'm not giving up on that," Randall laughs. "There's still time to go myself!"

To watch the NASA program on the Digital Learning Network, visit http://www.nasa.gov/education/dln.

For a list of student activities related to the president's address and NASA Webcast, visit http://www.ed.gov.

NASA's Digital Learning Network was founded in 2004 to deliver NASA educational content to classrooms nationwide and aid in the professional development of educators through the delivery of face-to-face and distance learning-based events. Its primary goal is to inspire and engage young people to stay in school and pursue careers in the technical fields critical to the nation's success: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Angela Storey
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala.