Aaron Toland | Staff Writer
Keystone students hear about career planning. They job shadow. They plan. Still many of them will take a long time to figure out their career path. One freshman, though, was on his career path long before Keystone.
Blake Seslar wants to pursue a career in aviation and space exploration; even at a wee age, Seslar was already fascinated with the celestial world.
Seslar recalls, “I have always had an interest in aviation and space exploration. Since I was about five years old, I have always been interested in planes, rockets and spaceships.”
Over the years, this youthful fascination in planes, rockets, and spaceships evolved into a well-developed plan about his future education and occupation.
“For my career path, I have many things that I’d like to pursue,” Seslar said. “I would like to be a test pilot in the United States Air Force and then eventually transfer over to NASA to become a test pilot there with the hopes of becoming an astronaut. I will most likely apply to Purdue University and the United States Air Force Academy out in Colorado. I plan on majoring in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering, along with a background in mathematics and physics.”
In order to gain valuable background information on engineering and space, Seslar began to met with former Purdue Professor Daniel Dumbacher in September of 2016.
According to Seslar, “I decided to meet with him because I knew that he would be a great mentor to me, and he knows a ton about the industry that I plan on going into.”
Dumbacher spent over thirty-five years with NASA. During this time, Dumbacher held a variety of positions. Most recently, he served as deputy service administrator in the Exploration Systems Development Division; in this position, he led a team of over 5,000 throughout several divisions of NASA. Along with his leadership positions, Dumbacher earned several accolades. Dumbacher has been awarded the Silver Snoopy Award, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service, and he was twice awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement medal.
After retiring from NASA, Dumbacher became a professor at Purdue and began to teach Engineering Practice in the Purdue School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. While Dumbacher was teaching at Purdue, Seslar met with him six or seven times
Although Dumbacher typically deals with sophisticated subject matters, Seslar describes their meetings as pretty casual.
“My meetings with Dan consisted of talking about events going on the Space industry, exquisite stories, and practically everything that revolves around my education, baseball, and events that had happened within the last time span that we met… my dad and I would meet at a restaurant or at Dumbacher’s house to chat and catch up with things,” Seslar said.
Even though the meetings were casual, Seslar does feel that he learned a lot about the space industry.
“I learned a lot from my meetings with Dan, but, most of all, I learned that I will face many obstacles in the future,” Seslar said. “I can either man up and overcome them, or just simply fail… and rocket scientists/engineers cannot fail!”
Unfortunately, these meetings will probably not occur on a very regular basis.
“As of January 1st, Dan is the Acting Executive Director for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and is once again back in Washington D.C. For the past 3 years he was a professor at Purdue, but he decided to ‘go back to the swamp’ in Washington to head the AIAA,” Seslar said.
The AIAA is the world’s largest aerospace technical society; the organization is 30,000 members wrong. Blake says he was disappointed to see Dumbacher go, but he knows that Dumbacher is onto bigger and better things.
“I was sad to see him go, but he will be coming back to Indy frequently for business,” Seslar said. “We plan on meeting again in March or April. There is a big conference in March held by Rolls Royce about aerospace innovations, so I might see him then.”
Although Seslar’s meetings with Dumbacher might not continue to occur on a regular basis, Seslar is still trying to learn more about his field inside and outside of school.
“I am taking my grades very seriously, especially math, science, and engineering,” Seslar said. “I am also teaching myself some advanced mathematics outside of school(trigonometry and parts of calculus) on Khan Academy. My dad and aunt also help me on this because my dad is an accountant, and my aunt is a math professor at Ivy Tech. I have learned a lot about astronomy and space science through watching tv shows on Science Channel like NASA’s Unexplained Files , Space’s Deepest Secrets, How the Universe Works and many others. I also read a lot of books about engineering and astronomy.”
Seslar has already took his first small steps to becoming an astronaut; it should only be a matter of time before he takes his giant leap for mankind as well.