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NOAA Administrator Shares Work, Career Path with Lower School Students

Kevin Fryar, Chief of Staff for the Office for Geostationary Satellites at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), visited the third and fifth grades on Wednesday, March 6, in the Lower School library.

From the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Fryar oversees the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), known as the GOES-R Series, which "provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth's Western Hemisphere, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather." GOES-U, the final satellite in the series, is scheduled to launch next month in April, and Fryar shared that in the 2030s — when many of the students in the audience will be new Gilman graduates — a new satellite series will be launched.

Fryar discussed the work that goes into building and launching satellites and the tools they use to track the formation, development, and path of weather systems like hurricanes or tornado cells or events within a system, like lightning strikes. Additionally, the satellites track wildfires and look towards the sun to track solar flares, which, if strong enough, can affect the weather on Earth. "I've done a lot of things throughout my career, but to be able to do what I do now really makes me smile and jump out of bed in the morning because I know that the tools I am a part of building actually help every meteorologist that's currently in the job or maybe one day coming up to become a meteorologist," he said.

Fryar explained that his childhood interest in sci-fi sparked his interest and later career in meteorology and atmospheric science. "I was into comic books; I was into sci-fi. That led me to understand that in 'sci-fi,' the first part of that is 'sci,' which is science," he said. "When I was your age, science was a big, big deal for me. I wanted to learn how things worked. I was really into the periodic table, which allowed me later on to understand things better when I wanted to learn about the atmosphere, which is full of chemicals and is basically just a large, continuously changing chemistry experiment."

Lower School students had a wide range of questions for Fryar throughout his visit, ranging from how much coverage the GOES-R satellites can provide to what specific onboard tools on the satellites do, like the magnetometer.


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