Students Learn from NASA Engineer

speaker and audience in auditorium

A large group of Pendleton High School students, plus students from Ukiah and Umatilla school districts, filled the PHS Auditorium on the morning of Monday, October 21st to hear about NASA and space. Jim McBarron, who worked for 39 years as a NASA engineer, is visiting Oregon as part of an educational initiative for rural Oregon students.

McBarron described to the student audience that during college, he worked part time with the Wright Patterson Air Force Base aeromedical laboratory, which provided student test subjects to determine human endurance characteristics during and after exposure to extreme environmental conditions. He started working for NASA in 1961 and during his career worked on various aspects of missions including Apollo 9, 11 and 13. Projects included evaluating spacesuits and crew equipment, testing equipment and modifying it when necessary.

When asked by students what an exciting moment in his career was, McBarron said “being in zero gravity was the most fun!”

The JPL Museum in Stayton, Oregon, helped bring this presentation to the area. James Loftus, who founded the museum in honor of his father, also spoke at the assembly and showed a spacesuit glove, boot and more equipment used by astronauts.

Loftus worked with Lon Thornburg, transitional network facilitator at the InterMountain ESD. Thornburg, who works with students with disabilities to transition to post-high school opportunities, said that Loftus is committed to ensuring that programs like this include students with special needs and who are on IEPs (Individual Education Plans). Thornbug said Loftus knows that many NASA engineers came from farm country or rural areas and some had ADHD or Autism Spectrum disorder. “Many of these kids were square pegs trying to fit into round holes, in other words different-thinking students. James (Loftus) wants to reach out to rural Oregon to find these needles in a haystack,” Thornburg said.

After the morning presentation, the Ukiah and Umatilla groups traveled to the Pendleton UAS Range for a tour of the facility to learn about the work being done there.

This program was made possible by Space Center Houston, EOU Go Stem Hub, JPL Museum, CHI St. Anthony Hospital, Oregon Grain Growers Distillery, NASA Alumni League JSC Chapter, Pendleton UAS Range, IMESD CTE program, City of Pendleton and Umatilla County.

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