Deep within the winding hallways of the Industrial A building on the Albany campus of LBCC sits a small room dedicated to LB’s Space Exploration Club. In here lie both current and past projects of the group — payloads and rockets sit atop a labyrinth of tangled wires. In a sense they serve as trophies; reminders representing the hard work put into each project by the club.
For one of the club’s most dedicated members, Delphine Le Brun Colon, they represent the rediscovery of a childhood dream.
Le Brun Colon is currently majoring in mechanical engineering at LBCC with a minor in aerospace engineering. She is the second LB Space Exploration Club member to accept a summer internship at NASA. She will be heading down to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to work on the RS-25 engine, the strongest rocket propulsion system in the world.
Le Brun Colon was born on the west coast of France and grew up in a small island community called I’lle dYeu. She moved around quite a bit throughout the course of her life and says the constant moving helped her understand the importance of being able to adapt. She had always dreamed of being an astronaut, but admits that she buried that idea at a young age, believing it to be too unrealistic.
She eventually made her way to Oregon by way of New York City. At the time, Le Brun Colon was seeking an education in ecological engineering, and OSU was one of three universities in the country offering an ecological engineering undergraduate program. This lead her to attend college at LBCC and on Welcome Day 2014 she met Parker Swanson at the Space Exploration Club booth. After talking with him and seeing some of the projects the club had worked on, she knew that she had to sign up.
“Life has a funny way of bringing you back to your path if you let it,” said Le Brun Colon.
In 2015, Le Brun Colon got the opportunity to work with the group on designing a payload that flew on board a NASA research rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This experience only further confirmed she had found her true calling.
“Experiencing a rocket launch sparked something in me. I knew I wanted to work in aerospace,” said Le Brun Colon.
She went on to lead the group’s project in 2016, where they created an ambitious rocket-borne payload that was designed to measure polarized energy from gamma rays in space. Levi Willmeth, colleague and friend of Le Brun Colon and current project manager for the Space Exploration Club, praised her leadership ability and attitude.
“My favorite part of working with Delphine is that she is relentless, selfless, and able to step back and see the bigger picture. She identifies problems months in advance, but will also cancel her weekend plans or pull a late night build session to solve a team emergency. Delphine is an excellent team member in any capacity, either giving directions or following them. Filling both of those roles is a difficult and rare quality,” said Willmeth.
Willmeth also accepted a NASA Internship for this upcoming summer and has worked closely with Le Brun Colon for three years now. The two applied for their opportunities through NASA’s One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI), which is designed for the selection and development of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.
“I encourage everyone to apply. There are so many opportunities offered and internships at NASA are not restricted to science and engineering type projects. they look for business majors, communication majors, etc,” said Le Brun Colon.
Parker Swanson, adviser to the Space Exploration Club, is proud of both Le Brun Colon and Willmeth. He’s thrilled that they received such amazing opportunities and says they are both well-deserved. He recounted the time he met Le Brun Colon at the Space Exploration Club booth in 2014 and explained that it has been his pleasure to watch her develop not only into an excellent engineer, but into an excellent manager and key member of the club.
“Delphine does everything with passion, including her engineering studies, her work with our team, several part-time jobs, and also having fun,” said Swanson.
After her internship with NASA, Le Brun Colon plans to transfer to Oregon State to finish her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She will also perform her own research with OSU’s propulsion lab and plans to attend grad school as well.
For Le Brun Colon, it has been quite a journey. She talked about the invaluable experiences and people she’s met along the way and praises the Space Exploration Club for giving her the hands-on experience to open up a path to a childhood dream.
“All the people I’ve met in the aerospace industry are humble and hardworking. There is something special about having to work together and trust each other to achieve something that is greater than all of us,” said Le Brun Colon. “My favorite things about the Space Exploration Club are the fact that it is open to everyone, the invaluable hands-on experience, the incredible projects I’ve had the chance to work on, and the people I get to work with. I didn’t know anything when I started but I learned. Don’t let yourself be intimidated. Be curious instead.”
Story by Joshua Stickrod
Photos by Elliot Pond