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January 12, 2018

Project manager Isaac Jambor blends science with people skills

Rumbles rippled through the ground as Isaac Jambor witnessed a rocket engine test up close. That moment, along with keeping his team motivated in the wee morning hours, were memorable takeaways from his time at the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program.

Jambor, a student at Johnson County Community College, visited the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. As the largest rocket-testing center in the U.S., Stennis is a huge federal facility just an hour’s drive from New Orleans.

Jambor said a rocket engine test was a highlight of his four days at NASA. “There was this huge cloud of smoke, and you could feel the vibrations under your feet. We saw the actual flames coming out of the engine,” he said. “It was luck that we were there when the test was being performed” since not every NCAS program participant has that chance.

Elected project manager

NASA selects 304 community college students to meet with NASA scientists and create their own Mars rover as student team. Jambor had the added responsibility of being elected project manager.

It was Jambor’s job to “tell everyone to keep things moving,” he said. That meant late nights (sometimes until 3 a.m.) and early mornings (7 a.m.) without much rest in between. He said his leadership style was to project confidence to his diligent team, who met as strangers.

“It’s more about the confidence of getting a lot of stuff done in a short amount of time,” Jambor said. The team not only was required to build the rover, but it also had to manage a budget and provide marketing and public relations for its mission.

Busy time at NASA

“We met some really cool people at NASA, heard speeches from actual department employees. Everyone there was really smart,” Jambor said. “There wasn’t much small talk. We were all too busy.”

Fellow JCCC student Jackson Conners had a similar experience at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, but Jambor said his group was the first to get assignments at Stennis.

Pursued many interests

Jambor began taking classes at JCCC in 2013, attending part-time before taking a few semesters off to work as a barista, play piano professionally and pursue other interests — he said he finds many fields fascinating. In addition to his music, he also studies Mandarin Chinese and is a serious gamer.

His interest in black holes and the fact that both of his parents are engineers has fueled his interest in physics. He’s already devising ideas for NASA’s next student opportunity involving augmented reality to monitor the status of astronauts’ microgravity suits.

Recommends involvement

Jambor is looking for opportunities that will take full advantage of his verbal skills, leadership and scientific curiosity. He credits his Calculus II professor, Darlene Hatcher, assistant professor of mathematics, for the letter of recommendation that made NCAS possible.

“I’m trying to get people involved in these NASA programs,” Jambor said.

If you’re interested in expanding your learning opportunities and gaining invaluable experience, contact a science or mathematics professor at JCCC for this and other opportunities.