My name is Barrett Falbaum, and I am a graduate of Salpointe (Class of 2014), the University of Utah, and I am a rocket engineer! Currently, I work for a company called Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS). Here we build all sorts of rockets, including the D5 missile which carries nuclear warheads, and the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) that will be our re-introduction to the moon. For the past 9 months of my employment here, I have been helping to make SLS and it is simply amazing getting to work on something you know will be blasting into space and carrying with it the hopes, dreams, sweat, and tears of so many people. At 30 feet long, just a single segment leaves me completely awe-struck, and there are five of these combined to make just one of two motors that will fly to the moon on any given mission! So how did I get here? That’s a long answer, but here’s the start.
While I was living in Tucson and going to school at Salpointe I had some amazing experiences. There are certain friends that I believe I will have for the rest of my life, and things I have done that will have an effect on me forever. One of those things includes taking Organic Biochemistry Honors in my senior year, which influenced my mindset to help me absorb the nuances of the organic chemistry courses that I would take in college. Then there was math. I was not a very good student, and back in high school I really did not enjoy math at all. It was a means to an end to me, and I never got past pre-calculus and trigonometry in my time there. It took a change in mindset and an entire summer of completing Calculus 1, 2, and 3, (roughly 8 hours a day of just calculus) but I got back on track and that set me up for success. Even if you don’t believe that you will use the things you are learning, I can personally guarantee you that you are learning much more than just math in a math class, and this goes for every class you will ever take.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really think that I would be making rockets when I left Salpointe. I didn’t even think that would be the case when I finished college! I had always dreamt of working in the aerospace industry, helping to create the future that I saw in all of those Star Trek episodes, but throughout my college career, I had gone down a path of semiconductors and photovoltaics, what most people know as solar panels. When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to study. All I knew was that I wanted to help us colonize the moon. Now, with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, I am here! Work hard and stay on focus, and you can achieve anything you want.
Left: Barrett in front of a decommissioned NASA Shuttle Motor, which is what they make the Space Launch System from. Barrett's SLS is 30 feet longer than this one, due to an extra segment.
Right: Barrett is in the far back right, watching over the move of the SLS segment.