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Previous Discovery Series Events


Our Discovery Series is a compilation of events and activities, created with a few specific things in mind for a multi-generational audience – inspiration, education, opportunity, and entertainment!

Here are just some of our previous speakers

October 2022

Sydney Hamilton


Sydney Hamilton always wanted to fly. So, it's no surprise that she now works for the Boeing Company, on an advance design team utilizing the latest technology and innovation in design, as an Aerospace Structures, Stress Engineering Manager in Long Beach, CA.

She has analyzed the first commercial aircraft with folding wing tips (777X plane), additively manufactured (3D printed) parts for spacecrafts and is currently the Responsible Engineering Authority for reflectors on satellites. In an industry where less than 5 percent the work force are African American women, Sydney is proud to continue breakdown barriers and pave the way for the next generation of leaders. Sydney was notably named an IF/Then Ambassador for the American Association of the Advancement of Science in 2019; whose mission is to encourage middle school girls to pursue STEM.

Sydney visited the Air Zoo on October 1, 2022 to lead two exciting hands on activities.

Stomp Rocket Engineering Challenge - A hands-on activity for all ages that saw guests compete in making the best possible stomp rocket! Sydney also shared her knowledge in two interactive floor shows.

Adult Aerospace Camp - That evening, Sydney lead out first kid free Adult Only Aerospace Camp. Working with teams, she helped design and program robots in a series of challenges.

July 2022

Discovering Shaba with Captain Thad Darger

Former F-117 Nighthawk pilot Captain Thad Darger will be visiting the Air Zoo and sharing his exciting journey with the 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Wing, of Holloman Air Force Base. Captain Darger was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for missions flown in our F-117 Nighthawk, Shaba. The Air Zoo's dedicated restoration volunteers are gearing up for the event as they complete the detailing, which matches the paint scheme under Captain Darger's command. Don't miss your opportunity to meet him!

    Thad Darger is a native of Sioux Falls, SD who attended the United States Air Force Academy prior to serving on active duty as an Air Force pilot for over eleven years.  Thad accumulated almost 3,000 flight hours in the T-38, B-1, and F-117 Stealth Fighter.  Thad flew multiple combat missions in the Stealth Fighter in 1999 during Operation Allied Force over Yugoslavia and Kosovo, attacking multiple strategic targets during the conflict.  Following his Air Force career, Thad was a United Airlines Pilot and for the past twenty years has been involved in sales leadership for a variety of medical device companies.

    Thad has been married for over thirty-one years to his wife, Danyel, and they have four children including a daughter that currently serves as an Instructor Pilot in the C-17 Globemaster in Charleston, SC.  Thad and Danyel have lived in Central Massachusetts for the past eighteen years.

Thad’s various Air Force decorations include, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Aerial Achievement Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal.


May 2022

Oceans to Astronauts, an Evening with Adele Luta.

Adele Luta, a Scientist & Innovator from Clear Lake, Texas, didn't see herself working underwater as a physicist. However, soon after graduate school, she was training astronauts for spacewalks in Houston in a massive pool. Her biggest takeaway? Follow your passions even if they don't seem to intersect, you never know when your passion might end up part of your job!

Adele joined us tell stories involving human spaceflight and how her work, including supporting the next missions to the moon, unites the ocean and the sky.

Watch a clip from the talk below!

March 2022

Flying the F-117 Nighthawk.

Former F-117 Nighthawk pilot, Matt McKeon joined us at the Air Zoo for a talk about what it was like flying one of the most secret aircraft of all time, the F-117 Nighthawk.

He disscussed the aircraft in depth, as well as his stories flying the Nighthawk during Operation Desert Storm

Watch a clip taken from the talk below!

October 2021

Launching NASA across the solar system, one "failure" at a time.

Kalamazoo native, Norman Haynes, Director of Mars Exploration, Jet Propulsion Lab (Retired), is a leading figure in the remarkable history of NASA’s planetary  exploration. 

When Mariner 4 launched in November 1964 towards performing the first flyby of Mars, Norm Haynes was five years into what would become a remarkable four-decade career leading various elements of interplanetary exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA.

Following a long path of solar system exploration filled with groundbreaking achievements and fascinating discoveries, Norm became the Director of Mars Exploration in 1996, a role he held until his retirement in 2000. Along the way, Norm received various honors and recognitions, culminating with the awarding of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal, the agency’s highest honor. 

Norm spoke on the hurdles, disappointments and on-the-spot ingenuity that led to the triumphant successes of two groundbreaking missions—Mariner 4, launched in 1964 and ultimately captured the first closeup images of another planet; and Voyager 2 in 1989, the first and only flyby mission to Neptune.

Norm Haynes is originally from Kalamazoo and is a Class of 1954 graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School. Norm currently lives in Pasadena.

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