Summer Jam School-age Program Meets Haudenosaunee Aerospace Engineer
Connolly recalled that as a young child he wanted one thing:
to work for NASA. Today he is an aerospace engineer for NASA's
Research Controls and Dynamics Branch in Ohio.
Joseph Connolly recalled that as a young child he wanted one
thing: to work for NASA.
Today the self-proclaimed science nerd has surpassed the odds
and has achieved his dream of working for the space organization.
More importantly, hes letting other American Indian youths
know that they too can aim high and reach for the stars.
Joseph, who is Onondaga and enrolled with the Six Nations Grand
River of Caledonia, Ontario, Canada, used his connections through
the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to connect with
youths participating in the Oneida Indian Nations Summer Jam
The program, open to Nation Members and Health Center clients
who are entering grades 3 to 7 in the fall, keeps children active
in a variety of activities, electives, recreation and gym events.
Students participated in the First Tee program, learned Oneida language,
talked about their heritage and enjoyed several field trips.
While it takes at least two detailed paragraphs to explain what
Joseph does on a daily basis, his focus was not on what he does,
but to inform American Indian children they can work through stereotypes
to become successful. His journey started quite haphazardly.
who is Onondaga and enrolled with the Six Nations Grand River
of Caledonia, Ontario, Canada, used his connections through
the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to connect
with youths participating in the Oneida Indian Nations
Summer Jam program.
As he explained he did not know how to get into college and
the path he started on to get there began when he literally bumped
into an Ohio State recruiter and sent her papers flying. The two
then struck up a conversation about college.
I said, I could be interested in coming to Ohio
State but really I want to work for NASA. Then she told me
that I should be an engineer, Joseph recalled. At the
time I really just thought an engineer was someone who drove a train
so I told her, no, no, no I dont want to drive a train,
I want to go to work for NASA. She sort of chuckled and started
to inform me about all the wonderful things aerospace engineers
So I applied to Ohio State and I got in.
The encounter also revealed something else: while the recruiter
was looking for American Indian students the high schools
guidance counselor told the recruiter the school had none.
his visit Joseph, a self-proclaimed space nerd, talked about
how his obsession for space turned into a successful career.
He introduced students to other successful American Indian
scientists and engineers and then planned a group activity.
Our school was relatively small. Theres only a handful
of American Indian (students) and the guidance counselor basically
was saying Native students shouldnt be going to four year
universities, he said.
When addressing youth Joseph focuses on stories of successful
American Indian scientists and engineers, such as Ely Parker a Seneca
who helped engineer the Erie Canal, to help children understand
that they can follow their dreams.
(Learn about Chapman Schanandoah [Wolf Clan] who would go on
to become a war hero, inventor, a crusader for the Oneida land claims,
and the keeper of a treasure dear to the Oneida people. An Oneida
Renaissance Man: Chapman Schanandoah)
I talk about successful scientists and engineers so when
students encounter some of those things where they might have stereotypical
views sort of shoved in their face they can say, Well, thats
not really true because I have all these examples of people who
have done these amazing things, Joseph added. Its
really important for Native students to realize that any of these
things are really possible for them.
works along with students to build a bottle rocket. Standing,
at right is, Tanner Bluewolf (Wolf Clan).
Oh, and as for what the NASA Glenn Research Center aerospace
engineer works on? The shortened version is he is creating new algorithms
and management schemes to help commercial turbo fan engines run
more efficiently. He is also working on commercial supersonics in
an attempt to create a land-based Concord-type jet that can fly
from New York to Los Angeles without creating a sonic boom.
It was a real honor coming out to speak to the students,
Joseph said. They were a lot of fun. They have a lot of great
questions and a lot of great insight in terms of how to do things.
I think they have a lot of inspiring dreams that hopefully theyll
be able to accomplish, and take us to great places.
sets up for the launching of a bottle rocket created
by Oneida Nation Summer Jam participants. The launch
was held just outside the Oneida Nation Recreation Center.
Nation Summer Jam participants provide a countdown for
the launching of a bottle rocket. The bottle rocket,
propelled by water and air, was a project they worked
on with Joseph Connolly.
shot of a bottle rocket shortly after a successful liftoff.