Benjamin Breitberg – veteran, pilot, NASA intern, explorer, OC graduate
“I’ve been inspired to do my best. As simple as that. If you do your best all the time, you not only better yourself, but the world around you. You should never settle for anything less than your best.”
Why did you choose to attend OC?
I chose OC for many reasons. I was separating from the Navy so I could go to school. Getting out of the military is a large change, and I wanted to minimize how many things in my life were changing at that time. I lived in Kitsap and wanted to stay there, so OC was the primary college to attend. Furthermore, OC has an engineering transfer program. It allowed me to do my first two years of school with OC and then transfer all the classes I took to the University of Washington. OC cost me less money, had smaller class sizes, and offered the same education as a four-year university. It was the easy choice to make.
What was your favorite class at OC?
I really enjoyed the Engineering Physics series at OC. We analyzed the fundamental laws of nature and saw their application in lab. I find it fascinating how the world around us can be described by math, and Engineering Physics was all about that.
You will be graduating OC soon. What is your educational and career path?
I had been working towards the Associate of Science Engineering transfer degree. My original plan was to transfer to the University of Washington for Aeronautical Engineering, but that changed last year when I was accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I will finish out my OC study plan at Embry-Riddle this summer and transfer the credits back to OC in order to meet graduation requirements. My education goal is to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. I have yet to decide if I will specialize in Aeronautics or Propulsion design.
I chose to go to Embry-Riddle because it is the #1 Aerospace Engineering school in the world. As a veteran, the GI Bill and the school cover all tuition, so this is an opportunity I could not pass up. Embry-Riddle also offers flight training, so I can continue to advance my pilot’s license and earn more ratings.
When finished with school, I would like to work with NASA at Dryden Flight Research Center in the Mojave Desert in southern California. They are the world leader in aeronautic research and just about all innovations in aviation have occurred at Dryden. I would like to work on projects that make aviation more efficient and keep it affordable for all to use.
Have you received any awards or recognition?
I received the Outstanding Engineering Student and Outstanding Engineering Physics Student awards at OC. I have been a President’s Scholar (3.9 GPA and above) for all quarters I attended OC, except for a summer quarter where I did not take enough credits to merit the status.
Embry-Riddle recently awarded me a $6,000 a year transfer scholarship which I will apply towards flight training. I was also awarded the NASA Aeronautics Scholarship (only 20 in the country receive the scholarship annually). This is an amazing award that provides me with $15,000 a year for two years, which I will use at Embry-Riddle, and a 10-week, $10,000 NASA internship at one of NASA’s aeronautics research facilities.
How did you volunteer at OC?
I was the Vice President of Fellowship with Phi Theta Kappa, which is a national honor society for those attending a two-year college. PTK is much more than just an honor society. It is active in school and community volunteer programs. This past year, PTK was involved in beach cleanups, planting trees for Earth Day, raising funds for Haiti, and raising funds for Relay for Life.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
It would be much simpler to describe what I don’t like to do in my spare time. My main passion is flying. I have my pilot’s license and enjoy going for a flight whenever I can. Unfortunately flying is expensive, so I don’t get to go as often as I would like. So when I can’t be in the air, I like going out for a hike. The Pacific Northwest has the most amazing landscapes and begs to be explored. From the coast, to the Olympics, to the Cascades, there is a ton to see. I also enjoy sailing whenever I can get a hold of a boat. Sailing is one of the most peaceful activities one can do. I love learning new things, so if I decide not to go outdoors, I spend my time either reading non-fiction books or watching documentaries.
What was your background like?
I grew up in San Diego, CA in a single-mother home. Throughout my childhood, my mother had health problems and was diagnosed with cancer three times. I learned to take care of myself at an early age and become self-reliant. I decided to join the Navy when in high school to get money for an education and also to give my life direction. The Navy was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I learned to apply myself and developed skills that would carry over into the civilian world. I worked in nuclear propulsion and served as an instructor and on a submarine. After eight years of service, I left the Navy to pursue my education and love of flight.
My love of flight began when I was five years old. My grandmother had bought me a ticket to come visit her in New York. I left my mother at the San Diego Airport and was escorted by flight attendants to the plane. On the way down the ramp, the flight attendant asked if I would like to see the cockpit. Sure! What kid wouldn’t? We stepped into the plane and turned left towards the cockpit. My eyes opened wide in amazement. The cockpit was littered with dials, gauges, switches, levers, and lights. My mind began to wonder, “What happens if I push this button? What does that switch do? Why is that light flashing?” The pilots were kind enough to try to describe to me what some of the functions were and how they were able to fly the plane. After my tour, I was guided to my seat; I was lucky enough to get one by a window. It seemed like an eternity before the plane started moving and headed towards the runway. It was time for takeoff. The jet engines slowly ramped up and went from a low pitch whine to a deafening roar. I was pushed back into my seat as the plane quickly gained speed. The ground on which we were racing became a blur. The nose pitched up slightly, my stomach sank a bit, and the ground began to move away from us. We were in the air. I was enthralled by this new experience. It was this moment that sparked my interest in flight.
How has OC inspired you?
I’ve been inspired to do my best. As simple as that. If you do your best all the time, you not only better yourself, but the world around you. You should never settle for anything less than your best.