Astronaut tells cadets how math helped his career
Astronaut Lt. Col. Shane Kimbrough, Class of 1989, told more than 1,000 plebes that their MA 103 mathematics class "... arms them with a skill set that allows them to critically think about how to solve problems in the classroom and in the field" during a lecture Monday in Robinson Auditorium. TOMMY GILLIGAN/PV

At one point in their lives, a vast majority of people have looked into the sky and wondered what it would be like to be in space.

While some continue to dream about it, only a select few have the opportunity to be accepted into the space program. Yet, that does not stop people's curiosity about or interest in the great unknown.

On the other hand, not many people grow up dreaming of being a great mathematician.

Unfortunately for many, it is a prerequisite skill that goes hand-and-hand with being an astronaut.

For Lt. Col. Shane Kimbrough, Class of 1989, his dreams of becoming an astronaut were nearly ended when he made his decision to attend West Point.

However, Kimbrough's aptitude and desire to excel in the world of mathematics opened doors along the way to get him where he is today.

"I want the cadets to understand that they have the ability to do great things," Kimbrough, the former Dept. of Mathematics instructor, said. "This (MA103) course that every cadet takes during their plebe year arms them with a skill set that allows them to critically think about how to solve problems in the classroom and in the field."

Kimbrough spoke to more than 1,000 cadets and staff in Robinson Auditorium Monday about his experience in space and his time assigned to the space program.

While Kimbrough's hourlong discussion focused on his STS-126 Endeavor mission, he stressed the importance of his path of academics over his career.

"After flying Apache helicopters, I had the opportunity to obtain my Master of Science degree from Georgia Institute of Technology," Kimbrough said. "After receiving my degree, I got to come back here and teach. I strongly believe that opened the door for me with the space program."

Kimbrough is one of five Army officers who are currently astronauts, and he talked about his experiences and showed the audience a 15-minute video of the highlights of his 16-day mission to space.

The Math Dept. was glad the former instructor could make time in his hectic schedule to come to West Point and speak.

"We were excited when we found out that he could make it," Lt. Col. Gerald Kobylski, academy math professor, said. "It is important for the students to hear from prominent people who have had successful careers involving math. At times it just needs to come from someone other than their instructors for them to understand."

Kimbrough fielded questions from the cadets after his presentation.

While many questions had serious overtones, one cadet asked if he could comment about his experiences or knowledge about possible extraterrestrial beings that are in space.

With a smile, Kimbrough replied, "I could tell you, but I would have to kill you."

As the group continued to laugh, Kimbrough played some slides about his fun moments during his trip to space. From his varsity letter on his space suit to maneuvering through the five-way intersection in the International Space Station, the cadets appeared attentive to every word.

He spoke about his experience working with all branches of service.

"If you think you are just going into the Army and just being Army, you are wrong," Kimbrough said. "Throughout my entire career, I have worked with all the other services and each branch has so much to offer to the battle."

Although Kimbrough explained the rivalry between Army-Navy is all in good fun, his final slide appeared from in a window in outer space with a button saying, "BEAT NAVY!"

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16