Lieutenant Matthew O’Connor
“As a pilot, science and being able to quickly think critically about science and math is a big part of my life,” said Lieutenant Matthew O’Connor, a Cicero-native turned Navy Pilot now stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola.
“Figuring out aircraft takeoff speeds based on weight, stall speeds based on bank angles, and understanding systems involved in engine operation as well as all electronic, battery, generator, hydraulic, pump, fan and valve functions is necessary for me to perform my duties effectively. If something goes wrong in a car, you can pull over and check it out. You don’t have that option in a plane.”
Through the generous support of Lockheed Martin, the MOST’s Flight & Space exhibit spanning nearly 4,000 square feet is one of the museum’s largest. Visitors can explore the history of rockets, advances in flight, propulsion, guidance, relative speeds of flight, as well as satellites and interplanetary probes exploring the depths of space. Guests can experiment with the four forces of flight (thrust, drag, lift and gravity) with helicopter and airplane simulators, experience what it’s like to be an air traffic controller, or test out the Link Trainer, which was used to train WWII pilots.
“My dad would take us to the MOST on weekends to see IMAX shows and walk through exhibits,” Lieutenant O’Connor recalled. “The MOST absolutely influenced my interests in science and technology. Just being immersed in that environment of knowledge and seeing how things scientifically work jumpstarted the critical thinking part of my brain.”
Lieutenant O’Connor graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2009 with a B.A. in Biomedical Science. Following graduation, he enrolled in Navy flight school and has been a pilot ever since. He has seen two deployments, each spanning seven months while in his P-3C* fleet squadron, and has seen much of the world (twice) visiting places including: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Scotland, Finland, Africa, Thailand, and Japan, among others. He now spends his time as an instructor flying the T-6A Texan II aircraft at NAS Pensacola.
*The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft
“I was lucky to grow up with the MOST,” said Jonathan Hollander, PhD, director of business development with Syracuse-based Applied Biorefinery Sciences. He recalled visiting the then-Discovery Center, which was filled with hands-on exhibits aimed at children.
“I gained a basic understanding about surface tension from creating bubbles the size of walls,” he said. “Decades later, I applied this concept on a nanoscale while researching atomic adhesion on the surface of semiconductors.”
During the 1990s and through last year, the MOST added permanent interactive exhibits on several topics, including alternative energy sources, Central New York geology, and life sciences. “Now when I visit the museum, I see examples of advanced engineering and materials design concepts all over – including some of the technologies I have been involved with developing over my scientific career!” Hollander added.
“Without a doubt, the MOST helped stoke my passion for pursuing science as a career,” he said. “It turned learning about science into a fun and social activity. I hope that one day I can show my own children, nieces, and nephews the museum and watch them grow up to create technologies that will fascinate future generations.”