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Meet: Brent Wellman

Project Manager, 2GCHAS,
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

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Who I Am
I am Brent Wellman, and I work at NASA's Ames Research Center as the deputy project manager for 2GCHAS (pronounced, "TOO-GEE-CHARLIE"). 2GCHAS stands for "Second-Generation Comprehensive Helicopter Analysis System," which is really a mouthful!

2GCHAS is a computer program that allows engineers to create a model of a helicopter or similar aircraft inside the computer. The engineer then tells the computer about the conditions, and the sorts of answers he or she wants to see, and the computer program figures it out.

And why would an engineer want to do that? Why, to save money, of course! It used to be that engineers used to have to build a few "mistakes" (and maybe actually *crash* a few), before they got any new idea to work. Now, engineers can work things out in the computer for a lot less money, before they build it, so they get it right the first time. Or, at least, that is how things are *supposed* to work!

I have a few other jobs, too. I am monitoring the work of private engineers outside of NASA whom we are paying to develop bright ideas they wouldn't be able to build by themselves. They don't want me to say a lot about their work, so I won't.

And I am still learning new things, like how to run a large wind tunnel, for example.

AND I am trained and on call to investigate mishaps that occur every so often...YUK! Well, we *are* exploring the unknown, and we *are* paid to take some [pretty carefully weighed] chances to advance human knowledge.

My Career Path
In the past, I have been the team leader for the XV-15 tiltrotor project here. A tiltrotor is an aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter, but which flies like a plane.

This early work resulted in the V-22 Osprey, scheduled to enter Marine Corps service in 2002.

I also was a project engineer for the RSRA, a compound helicopter. It had both airplane and helicopter controls and wings and rotors, and could test really risky rotors; if there was trouble, the RSRA could blow the rotor off and fly back on its wings.

Anyway, I am trained as a mechanical engineer, which gave me a firm grasp of a wide range of fundamental disciplines. I started at Ames as a research assistant to my professor, working out a problem on loads and stresses on a research aircraft. Folks here liked my work and style and hired me on. I later studied aeronautics and astronautics through an education program at Ames.

What I Like About My Job
What is really great about working at NASA is that there are so many opportunities to do interesting, stimulating, and just plain *fun* things. I started to work at Ames for less money than I was offered elsewhere because of that. The opportunity to do great things and use cutting-edge technologies was the real draw.

Not the least of which are the educational opportunities. As I mentioned before, Ames sent me to graduate school at Stanford. And I have had occasion to travel and study elsewhere as well.

On the downside, I'll never get rich here. If I wanted that, though, I'd have studied investment banking.

When I Was a Kid
When I was younger, and in school, I liked science and flying and chemistry and astronomy and making rockets and fireworks and chemical reactions. I am genuinely surprised that I have two eyes and 10 fingers. I used to love to sketch out imaginative airplanes and submarines and spaceships.

But other than living a bit of a goofy, nerdy, slightly dangerous childhood, a few things influenced me far beyond their initial impact. One day I happened to see some papers in my dad's closet. They were figures and symbols and indecipherable scrawlings in a tight precise pencil on graph paper, with a number at the bottom, neatly boxed in. I asked my dad about it and he replied in an offhand manner that it was one of his old trig problems.

A problem? *A* problem? As in JUST ONE? The math problems I had been exposed to were all like 87 minus 13 equals 74, and I could fit 30 or more of them on a page to my teacher. ONE problem on a whole sheet??? Whoooa! I don't think dad ever realized how totally blown away I was that day.

Little did I know that later on I'd be doing single problems for my professors that ran on for ten pages or more...

Later, in high school, I had a teacher who influenced me a lot. He wasn't the kind of nice guy, take-ya-under-my-wing, nurturing teachers you think of when you look back fondly at school. He was tough. But he had a discipline about him and required the same discipline from his students.

And he made us box in our answers at the bottom of the problem.

In this photo I am standing near a display of cross-sections of helicopter blades.

Brent has written a paper on Bumblebee aerodynamics.

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