STUDENTS GET A LESSON OUT OF THIS WORLD
"Are people still walking on the moon today?" Jason Dugas asked a group of students from Bossier Schools. "No." "Yes." The class was either split or not quite sure how to answer.
"People are not walking on the moon. We haven't had a mission to the moon since 1972," Dugas said. Why? For one reason, rockets are expensive to build and are used one time.
Dugas knows a thing or two -- actually a lot -- about rocket design and all things space. The electronics engineer works for NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and has been involved in projects including the design and testing of spaceflight hardware currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He is also an adjunct professor at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches in the Department of Engineering Technology and Computer Information Systems.
Dugas was the guest speaker at Energy Camp Louisiana, held for Bossier Parish students June 18-22 at Bossier Parish Community College. The free camp was sponsored by Encana Oil and Gas and Shell Oil Company.
Teens had a busy week, touring the Shell's field office in Mansfield, building solar cars and constructing wind mills, and hearing from Dugas. For nearly two hours he wowed them with video of the Space Shuttle and ISS, as well as his team testing equipment. He also interspersed lots of anecdotal facts few people know unless they get the chance to pick the brain of a NASA engineer.
For example, ever heard of Stennis Space Flight Center in Mississippi? That is where NASA conducts all of its rocket testing, because the tiny town of Kiln is so sparse; perfect for their purposes. Another fact: during testing of the Space Shuttle in Florida, the sheer force of the engine ripped apart a brick shield that had been built. One of those bricks was found two miles away.
When Dugas was asked what kind of math and science classes he had to take for his job, his answer was surprising to many of the students. "Math and science is a lot of it," he answered. "But being able to communicate with people is just as important." That means public speaking, reading and English.
"If you can't communicate with other people, you're not very useful," Dugas added.
It also came as a surprise that math was not Dugas' first love. "I didn't like math. I still don't, but I do it. After a while, though, you kind of like it as you practice and become really proficient at it." So why become an engineer? Dugas explained, "When I got into it, it was so hard, but it hooked me. I decided I would either do it or fail trying. It challenged me and hooked me."
The rest, as they say, is history.