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Meet John Balboni

photo of John Balboni

Aerospace Engineer
NASA Ames Research Center

Ames Research Center

Who I am and what I do:
I do engineering desgin, testing, and operation of high-power, high-temperature arc jet wind tunnels. These are used to generate plasma flows to heat samples of materials that are used for heat shields. The hot flow simulates the heating that spacecraft experience during atmospheric entry from space.

I help to design cooling systems, instrumentation, test models, supersonic nozzles and diffusers, and other water-cooled equipment used by the arc jet facilities.

Areas of expertise:
My education and degrees are in Mechanical Engineering. The types of skills I use are: mechanical design and stress analysis, heat transfer, fluid flow, gasdynamic flow, materials design, cost estimating, writing technical papers and proposals.

You need to be able to write well, to keep your writing concise. You need to have good skills with engineering software such as finite element analysis, CAD in 2D and 3D, and in other engineering packages.

You need to be organized, show up on time, and keep your word. Don't promise what you can't deliver.

How I first became interested in this profession
I was always interested in machines and desiging things, and in drawing. Since high school I wanted to pursue engineering.

What helped me prepare for this job
Study a lot, be able to work out problems on your own (using every available resource you can find) and be able to work problems with a team. Complete all of those lab reports. You may be writing up many more of those, only keep in mind, when you're working they are usually MUCH more interesting!

My role models or inspirations
My dad.

My education and training
B.S.M.E. from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. M.S.M.E. from Stanford University. Then a lot of on the job training and mentoring from some really great old-timers who worked at NASA during the 1960's.

Career Path
I began as a junior engineer out of college with NASA Ames. I have been in the same branch (department) for 22 years. As I stepped up in levels I have taken on more responsibility.

What I like best about my job
Diverse job challenges, good crew of people, exciting missions.

What I like least about my job
Paperwork, safety training (office safety, ergonomic training, etc).

My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
Keep trying, don't give up on what you want. When you go for an interview, as questions and be yourself. If you sound curious (and intelligent) how can they refuse you?


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