About Tom Benson
Tom Benson is an aerospace engineer in the Inlets and Nozzles Branch at the NASA Glenn Research Center. He earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Ohio State University in 1971. He then spent four years in the Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB doing high speed inlet testing and installed-engine performance calculations for the F-16, B1-A, YF-17 and F5-E. He returned to graduate school at OSU in 1975 and passed the qualifiers for a PhD. While at OSU, he worked on the application of fluid dynamics solvers to the problem of blood flow through the circulatory system. He started working at NASA Glenn in 1978. During the 80’s and 90’s he built, verified and applied computer programs to model the flow of gases through high speed inlets. He worked on the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) project to study a vehicle that would fly from a runway into orbit. He also served as the NASA representative on a NATO-AGARD Working Group on high speed inlet computations. He worked for several years to develop computational models for microgravity liquids, including an experiment that flew on the Space Shuttle during STS-43 and STS-52. He then studied fundamental fluids problems, such as the jet-in-cross flow and flow past a cylinder, using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). He is the author of more than 50 technical papers dealing with various aspects of CFD.
For the last 20 years, he has divided his time between high speed CFD and educational outreach. Tom is the author of The Beginner’s Guide to Aeronautics , a large NASA educational website that describes the math and science of aeronautics as applied to airplanes, gas turbine engines, rockets, kites and sports. He is the author of FoilSim, EngineSim, RocketModeler, and KiteModeler. These are interactive computer programs available on the web to allow students to explore math and science through inquiry-based learning. He developed several interactive computer programs that demonstrate the effects of aerodynamics on the game of baseball. His programs were displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit, and on the Cleveland Indians Jumbotron at Progressive Field, as part of WKYC Weather Days with the Tribe. (He even got to throw out the first pitch). During the Centennial of Flight Celebration, he developed several computer simulations related to the Wright Brothers wind tunnel tests, aircraft, and engines. NASA’s Re-Living the Wright Way website shows students the math and science behind the invention of the airplane. Tom and Roger Storm give educational presentations around the country as Wilbur and Orville Wright describing the invention process. Tom is currently a presenter for the Digital Learning Network (DLN) delivering lessons to students using interactive television on such varied subjects as Humans in Space, Simple Machines, and Galileo. He has participated in many NASA outreach events, including the Cleveland National Air Show, the Ingenuity Science and Art Festival, the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, the USA Science and Engineering Festival, and Donovan McNabb’s Football Camp in Philadelphia.
Tom was born in Columbus, Ohio, graduating from Bishop Watterson High School. He likes all kinds of music; has sung with and conducted the church choir, played guitar and bass guitar for a garage band and a blue-grass band at NASA, and appeared as a super in a Metropolitan Opera presentation of Aida in Cleveland. He likes sports; playing football and basketball as a kid, and coaching basketball and soccer for his son. He is also a board member of the Cleveland Astronomical Society where he has given talks on the Apollo Moon program and the International Space Station.