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Meet: Steve Bauman

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Mechanical Engineer, Lewis Research Center

Chat Archive

Who I am
I am a mechanical engineer in the Engineering Design and Analysis Division (EDAD) at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Being an engineer means that I think of physical ways to do things, by designing structures or mechanisms to accomplish special tasks, and then seeing them through design, fabrication and installation. Being in EDAD, I get to work on many different kinds of projects that are brought to me from the other divisions of NASA.

Many of my jobs are related to the facilities here at Lewis. Recently, I designed a microphone track for a dome-shaped facility where jet engine nozzles are tested. The track is 150 feet long, curves along the ceiling of the dome, and extends to the floor. Mics are mounted to 23 individual carriages, and they travel along the track on roller skate wheels much the way a roller coaster moves. Previously, I had worked on a combustion experiment that flew on the space shuttle two years ago. I was in charge of the chamber in which the combustion occurred

Currently, I am trying to figure out how to prevent the models that are mounted in our 8x6 wind tunnel from bouncing around during a test. The 8x6 tunnel has an 8-foot tall by 6-foot wide test section where air is moved past a mounted model at up to twice the speed of sound. To keep the model from bouncing, I am trying to figure out how to make the mounting sting stiffer or how to counteract the bouncing motion with some electronic devices. I am also helping to design and build a new facility that will test jet engine combustors, which is the part where the fuel is squirted in and ignited. There are other rigs like it, but this one will be to used to develop better laser diagnostic methods that measure how well the combustor is working.

As a Child
When I was growing up, I was always fascinated by how things work. After things around the house broke, I would take them apart, try to figure out how they were supposed to work, and try to fix them. I even use to gather interesting appliances from our neighbor's garbage, and sometimes I was able to fix them, also! I was always asking my father, also an engineer, how things worked. I would try to make things in my father's basement workshop, mostly out of wood, like toy boats or rubber band guns. As I grew, I learned to plan and draw what I wanted first so they would come out better.

I was also fascinated by the space program. Back then, NASA was working on sending men to the moon. I remember reading everything I could about rockets, building and playing with models of the Saturn V and the lunar lander, and watching the first moon walk on TV. I also loved airplanes, especially since my dad use to take me flying in small airplanes that he would rent. Later, I got my pilot's license also.

I always had a talent and interest in math and science. None of my grades were very good until I got to high school when I started finding everything more interesting and important. I then went to Case Western Reserve University where I got my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I later got an MBA from Cleveland State University. I learned in college, and later as an engineer, that English (being able to write and to speak) was just as important as all the other courses.

My Career
My first job out of Case was to work for White Motor Corporation - they made full-size trucks. I lost this job when the economy got bad, and I couldn't find another job, so I went to Cleveland State and earned my MBA. After I graduating, I got a job at Little Tikes Toy Company. I learned a lot about plastic parts design. I later worked for the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Company where I designed self-propelled concepts of their next product. Finally, I went to work for NASA where I have been for 11 years now. It is the best job I have ever had.

Likes/Dislikes about career
The best thing is that I get to do what I love to do best, design things. Everyday is a little different. Sometimes I'm trying to figure out how to do something, while at other times, I'm helping to put something that I designed together and to make it work. I constantly get to learn new things and to tackle new challenges.

I also like that my working hours are very consistent so I can go home after work to spend time with my family and do my hobbies. Not all jobs are like this. The only bad things about my job is probably the same with most any job, that sometimes you have to do tasks, like certain kinds of paperwork, that aren't much fun.

Working hard in school really pays off in the long run. If I had worked harder in school when I was really young, high school, and especially college, would have been easier. Also, developing good social skills is vital. I was shy in high school, but I was still in choir and stage crafters, which helped. But at Case, I was in a fraternity, and this was a huge help to developing as a person. Fraternities and sororities have gotten bad reputations lately, but are usually wonderful support groups that can really help students to become better students and more well-rounded people.

I also learned the importance of saving my money and living well within my income. This allowed me to survive those times when I had no job and to get my MBA.

The future
My number one priority right now is my children. I want to show them as much of what life has to offer as I can, and to give them every chance to grow and learn. My wife and I are saving money for all of them for the future college expenses. We are also saving money for ourselves as a safety net and for retirement someday. I may change jobs someday and do something different here at Lewis. This is one of the great things about working at a big center like this. And being an engineer, I'm qualified to do many different kinds of jobs.

Personal stuff
Besides having a terrific career, I love to spend time at home. I have three kids, Sarah, 12, Craig, 9, and Lauren, 6. My wife and I spend nearly all our time with them, doing homework and having fun. We also have a very friendly dog named Shasta, who never leaves her yard and rarely barks, and a very cuddly cat named Sidney. We live in a rural area with plenty of space to play. I have a big shop building, separate from the rest of the house and the garage, where I can still make things and fix things. My biggest projects have related to our house. I finished our basement, complete with a whirlpool bathtub and kitchenette. I also converted our original garage into a huge new living room and added a new garage out front. I built a deck off the back of the house and a separate deck and playhouse for the kids. I made a small Ferris wheel for the kids for Christmas several years ago, and I plan to make an electric car for them to ride around our yard very soon. I also hope to build an airplane someday.

We also have a vacation home on Sandusky Bay, a doublewide mobile home. It includes a dock where we keep our 21-foot cabin cruiser. We swim and fish most weekends of the summer, and, sometimes, we visit the Lake Erie Islands and sleep on the boat. For next summer, we've bought season tickets to the Cedar Point Amusement Park.

I'm glad everyday for having a fun, well-paying career that allows me to do so many other things.

Archived QuestChats with Steve Bauman


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