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Erick Ordoñez: Materials Engineer

4 minutes

I love space. What's not to like about space? I'm Erick Ordoñez, a materials lab lead engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. A materials engineer tests anything that goes into space. We make sure that it's safe to use. The materials and processes lab at Marshall Space Flight Center, we pretty much burn, break, tilt, bend any material to make sure it's durable. What we have here is aluminized Mylar. It could be anything from a shield on the International Space Station to any tool that astronauts use in space. If we're going to Mars, it's a six-month mission. What if something happens and you have an accident and something catches on fire? We can't take water, so we need the right materials, chemicals, and suppressants so that we're prepared for an emergency. We test ahead of time to have all aspects of the mission covered. Success. Failure. This is our flammability test chamber, and what we're gonna show is how flammable this test sample is in air. We clamp our samples in and have a metal wire where we put in a chemical igniter, which is a stick that when it heats up, it flames up. We light it up, and we see if the material will burn or not burn. One of the great things is we have to think outside the box. I hate people thinking I'm something that I'm not. My friend said, "Come salsa dancing with us." I couldn't dance and didn't know how. I was scared and nervous. Everyone has the misconception that I'd sweat over them and have no rhythm, no coordination, so I started taking classes. Three years of nonstop practice, practice, practice. I became to love it. Salsa dancing and engineering is similar. You practice, just like you study. You break it down like engineering. If someone tells me, "No, you can't do it," I will not just tell you, but show you I can. My dream was working for NASA, but it's not complete. I want to contribute to the first manned mission to Mars. And engineers here at Marshall, JSC, JPL, Kennedy, we are so destined for greatness. We're waiting to bust out. If you apply what you learned, you can do anything you want. No questions. Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Erick Ordonez is a materials engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He makes sure that the materials NASA sends into space are problem-free. In this video, he talks about the connections between his work, hobbies, and approach to life. Part of the "Design Squad Nation" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 4 minutes

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Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Design Squad Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Design Squad Nation
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Design Squad Nation
Episode 4
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Design Squad Nation
Episode 5
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
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Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 3 - 8
Design Squad Nation
Episode 7
4 minutes
Grade Level: 3 - 8
Design Squad Nation
Episode 8
3 minutes
Grade Level: 3 - 8
Design Squad Nation
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 3 - 8
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Episode 10
4 minutes
Grade Level: 3 - 8