Aragon Burlingham

Educational Background: Attended middle and high school in England; Bsc in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the University of Southern California; Msc in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University.

Current company, job, and description: Founder and President of We Teach Science Foundation.

Career path: I remember when I was 12 years old and building yet another model airplane to fly, my dad pointed out that there is actually a job where you can design planes all the time. I was hooked and focused on learning all about aerodynamics and aircraft design. After graduate school at Stanford, I started work at a small consultancy working on a project funded by NASA to write software to help design aircraft. Soon after that, I spent a couple of years in South Africa working on Surface to Air missile simulation software. On returning to California (Silicon Valley) I spent the following 10+ years managing R&D operations for products from concept development through design and transition to mass production in China. In the three years prior to forming the We Teach Science Foundation, I served as President of D2M, a product design consultancy in Silicon Valley and was Director of Operations at Speck Product Design, managing engineering operations in the Palo Alto and Shanghai offices. In 2008 I changed careers to focus on enhancing the math and science education of American public school children and founded We Teach Science later that year.

Favorite math teacher: Mr. Heater was my Calculus teacher at Bakersfield Community College from 1986 to 1988. I could see his love and passion for Calculus every day in class – each lesson was a wonderful exploration of the power and wonder of math. What I really loved about him was his attendtion to his students – he was always checking for deeper understanding in his students.

Favorite memory from math/science growing up: When I was about 13, I spent much time building hot air balloons from tissue paper, cotton wool, and alcohol (for the flame). Mid-winter in England I would spend a day or two building 4-5 foot high hot air balloons, then drag them out to the garden and use a camping stove to heat up the air. Finallly, we would light the alcohol soaked cotton wool at dusk and watch the balloon slowly drift in the sky, glowing softly.

In community college, three of us entered an engineering competition to design a contraption to launch a golf ball as far as possible. We got serious very quickly and designed the equivalent of a pneumatic sling shot. Using oil refinery parts (this was done in Bakersfield where there isn’t much going on other than oil and farming) we welded together pipe and a pressure vessel that could throw a golf ball over a mile. The judges, after hearing about our testing, changed the rules of the competition at the last minute to limit the range to 100 yards!