Launching rockets and accomplishing dreams, former student exudes confidence, exemplifies the importance of  career preparation.  

As a child, Clayton Smith desired to know the unknown, he dreamt of spaceships, devoured stories of satellites and fed his fascination through pictures, news articles and studies of NASA’s Apollo Lunar Program. When he saw the opportunity to  dive deeper into the complexity of the field he loved as a high school student, Smith didn’t hesitate to plunge into the resources available to him as he recognized the importance of the necessary beginning – a beginning that later led to his dream career at SpaceX.   

Smith’s  fascination with outer space eventually led him to take a Physics class as a junior at Choctaw High School. The class was taught by Mr. Edward Lord.

“Mr. Lord’s passion for physics and his teaching style in the Intro to Physics class I took as a junior,  drew me to pursue his full Physics course the following year,” he said. “There was just one hang up – he was leaving Choctaw High School to form a Pre-Engineering Program at the Technology Center!” 

During his senior year in 2012-2013, Smith attended EOC Tech and  joined the newly established Pre-Engineering Program where he was posed with creative challenges he had never been exposed to before.

“Some of the best parts of the program for me were completing dedicated coursework which optimized the time spent preparing for my college education,” Smith said. “I worked through projects which required building machines and robots, creating things with the 3D printer, and was surrounded by peers who shared similar passions.” 

Smith said the EOC Pre-Engineering program influenced his decision to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  SpaceX was brought to his attention at the end of 2010 when they launched their second mission of Falcon 9 and revealed a new wave of space exploration.

“I was extremely excited about finding a way to contribute to SpaceX’s mission and fortunately, this realization coincided with the time I became a student at EOC Tech,” he said. “From that year on, I knew that I wanted to work on rockets with SpaceX.” 

Current EOC Tech Pre-Engineering Instructor Edward Lord, said he is not the least bit surprised by Smith’s success in the field. 

“Clayton embodied the awesome combination of brilliant, imaginative and hard working,” Mr. Lord said. “He exceeded my expectations, embraced Physics concepts from class and applied them accurately to everyday occurrences.”

Smith continued his education after high school at the University of Oklahoma and received his Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2018. 

“Because of the preparation I received in problem solving and familiarity with the courses like Physics, Mathematics, Technical Drawing and Computer Aided Design (CAD), it made me crave something similar during my years at university,” he said. “CareerTech provided a dedicated means to achieve more focused training and allowed me to pursue the things I was passionate about.”

Smith said under his current position at SpaceX,  he sends satellites to space and is responsible for finding ways to attach and fly the satellites to space on rockets. 

“Satellites come in all different shapes and sizes and I develop structures and mechanisms to launch and deploy  the satellites,” he said. “I design and build the part of the rocket which attaches the satellites and our protective shell, the fairing, to the rocket and own the payload region hardware for some of these missions from conception to launch.” 

Since Smith began working at the company two years ago, he has launched 139 satellites into space.

Although  Smith’s future as an engineer wasn’t certain as he studied and challenged himself as a student, he has come to realize that  with the right learning environment, career aspirations are more than attainable. 

“While we should try to learn from people who have done and experienced a lot of things, it’s even better if we can learn from these people in an environment which allows us to practice and hone our skills and knowledge ourselves,” he said. “And CareerTech Centers provide this exact type of environment.”

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