by Donna Parker
"I have one of the coolest jobs I can think of," says Jeff Bennett, who earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Trinity in 2005 and now designs and tests rockets for United Launch Alliance in Colorado.
The Ares series of rockets, which will replace the space shuttle when it is retired, completed its first successful unmanned flight in October 2009 and is the first new NASA rocket in nearly 30 years.
What's it like to be on the cutting edge of such an exciting program?
"I love it! We launch rockets! 'Nuff said," laughs Jeff.
The final frontier has always been on the mind of this thinker-even during Trinity days when, in addition to "playing any intramural sports I could get my hands on," he spent a good deal of time contemplating passersby from a couch on the second floor of Coates.
"There were rumors back then that they'd dedicate the couch to me because I sat there for hours listening to people play piano downstairs and napping," jokes Jeff.
There's not so much sitting around these days for this new father of an 8-month-old son, who spends his "spare time" pursuing a master's in mechatronics. If you're uninitiated in rocket science, mechatronics is a conglomeration of electro-mechanical systems, math, and mechanical engineering.
"I also volunteer as a judge for local school science fairs. I really like talking with students about their scientific methods and what materials they used in their experiments. For example, one group of kids baked cookies by removing one ingredient at a time to see what would happen in the baking process."
Obviously, science is what motivates Jeff, but he does enjoy hiking with his wife, Alicia Brandstetter Bennett '05, and their baby, as they are only 30 minutes from some of the most beautiful mountains in the country. Jeff also relaxes by working in the yard and reading.
He also loves to write, having picked up that skill courtesy of Peter Balbert, department of English, who taught him the importance of communicating effectively to ensure everyone is speaking the same language.
"I also remember Drs. Kevin Nickels and Paul Giolma, both from the department of engineering science. They placed the students into a real-world realm of thinking so that what we learned in the classroom transferred to our careers in engineering. Both of them encouraged all of us to learn things outside the basic curriculum, which has served me well."
Jeff, who began firing rockets as a kid in Tucson, Ariz., believes divine intervention directed him to Trinity where even then he knew the space program would propel him into his own personal orbit.
"In the future, I'll stay involved in the aerospace industry and see just how far it takes me."
You may contact Jeff at jbennett [at] alum.trinity.edu.