College of DuPage Alumnus Works on NASA Space Launch System
By Brian Kleemann
Reggie Martin may not be going into space, but the College of DuPage alumnus is making sure others safely do so.
As the lead integrator expert for the Kennedy Ground Control Subsystem at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Martin is responsible for managing the research, design, development and implementation of all hardware and software interfaces, including the primary interface between KGCS and the Launch Control Center firing room. He also works closely with other facility integrators and contractors to ensure that all KGCS interfaces are properly configured at facilities integral to NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission-1, deep space missions and the journey to Mars.
Working at NASA was never a consideration when Martin was younger. His focus was on sports, and he played football at Wheaton North High School for two years before his family moved to Alabama, where he finished high school at Baker High School and Bryant Area Vocational School in Mobile.
“I studied electronics and fixed transistor radios, Zenith and Magnavox TVs. I also took woodshop and learned auto mechanics,” he said. “I made sure I had skills to fall back on, but when I got out of high school, I wasn’t sure what to do.”
Martin enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served for six years, including time on the USS John F. Kennedy. He is a veteran of the Bosnian War and the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations during the Gulf War, and his recognitions include Operations Department Sailor of the Year in 1991.
“My time in the military was valuable in getting me grounded,” he said. “I learned so much in a variety of positions and my interest was piqued in becoming an engineer. I also saw that officers had a pretty good life and learned that they had all gone to school.”
After returning to the Chicago area to be near family and friends, Martin secured a job as a technician at Fermilab, where he was surrounded by scientists and engineers who fueled his interest in engineering. He knew about College of DuPage and decided to enroll, attending classes while continuing to work.
“My time at COD was so valuable,” he said. ‘In addition to learning about time management, I came to realize that I didn’t need to go to a four-year school to be successful academically. I received the same foundation that I would have elsewhere but at an affordable cost, and it was an easier environment in terms of access to professors and the attention I received whenever I needed help.”
Martin completed his Associate in Engineering Science and transferred to the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Throughout his college career, he continued working at Fermilab and eventually moved into a position as an engineer. He even started pursuing a master’s degree until a vacation changed his path.
While in Florida with his wife and children, Martin was playing golf with a man who worked at NASA and discussed career options with him.
“Fermilab is one of the greatest places in the world to work,” he said. “NASA wasn’t on my radar as a career, but it was such a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass it up.”
Since 2006, Martin has built an impressive resume at NASA. He received one of its highest honors, the NASA Silver Snoopy Award, for his work representing KGCS and coordinating with the center’s security team. He also was nominated as Employee of the Year in 2016.
Martin is proud to rely on skills that he learned throughout his academic years and employment at Fermilab.
“I currently work alongside colleagues who attended the best and brightest institutions in the country. I collaborate with scientists and astrophysicists from around the world,” he said. “My background is a trade school, the military, a community college and a four-year school, which shows just how far you can go if you stick to it.
“Even though NASA wasn’t my original goal, I always wanted to get better and improve every step of the way. College of DuPage helped me get to the next level and kept me moving forward.”
For more about the Engineering program at College of DuPage, visit www.cod.edu/engineering.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 27,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.
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