Columbus grad encourages students to pursue their dreams

By: 
Mikaela Koski
Thursday, November 29, 2018

SCN photo by Ardona Robbins

Martin Elton talks to CHS students about his job in the STEM field.

In the 18 years since Martin Elton graduated from Columbus High School, he’s learned a few things.

Recently, Elton, a hardware engineer at Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Company, was back at CHS sharing some of his advice and experience in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field with some future Columbus grads.

MARTIN’S STORY

As a student at CHS, Elton performed very well on the military’s ASVAB test.  After scoring in the top 1 percent nation-wide on the nuclear entrance exam, Elton signed up to be a nuclear engineer in the Navy after high school.

Unfortunately, Elton suffered a shoulder injury the night before shipping out to boot camp, leading to his medical, honorable discharge from the Navy before boot camp began.

While the military was out of the picture, Elton continued to follow his interest in STEM.  Throughout the years, he has continued to build his knowledge in various STEM topics.

Out of high school, he attended Montana State University for physics.  Elton has degrees in computer and electronics engineering from ITT Tech, and he attended the University of South Florida for electrical engineering.

This education has opened doors for Elton to experience different aspects of the STEM field, most taking place in Florida.  He has worked for a government subcontractor, and for Mettler Toledo as a technical specialist working on x-ray and metal detectors.

As a hardware and software prototype engineer with a contract engineering company called Sibex, Elton says he took “customer’s electronics projects from thought and napkins to production.”

Elton has also worked as a prototype and new product engineer for a small research equipment company named Stellarnet.  For that job, Elton designed “spectrometers, lasers and lighting systems for matter composition, structure and analysis.”

Last April, he began working with the Space Systems Company at Lockheed Martin in the Cape Canaveral area.  Elton’s T-shirt last Friday explained this job well: “We do space.”

According to the Lockheed Martin website, the Space Systems Company “builds the satellites and spacecraft that do amazing things in space for government and commercial customers.”

It describes some examples of the work done by Lockheed Martin as satellites that can “give earlier warning of severe weather, connect troops on the battlefield, and deliver GPS directions to a billion people worldwide.”

“LOOK UP AT THE NIGHT SKY AND DREAM”

As an average B-C student at CHS, Elton had two teachers that really pushed him to succeed – his history teacher Jim Hicks and his physics teacher Bob Fitzgerald.

Elton describes them as two of the “biggest influences on my life,” noting, “they were the teachers who took the time to kick me in the butt and make me realize there was more to life than just having a fun time.”

Hicks made an especially big impact on the young man’s life.  Elton is “eternally grateful” to the teacher he credits for changing his life and getting him pointed in the right direction.

Elton says that while he was growing up in Columbus, “it was always a dream of mine to work at Cape Canaveral on space ‘stuff.’”  He never really had the childhood dreams of becoming a rock star or a professional athlete, rather, Elton “really just wanted to help further human kind.”

While it may seem that coming of age in a small rural town could lead to limitations for someone with the dream of working at Cape Canaveral, Elton explains that, “growing up in a small, isolated town in the middle of nowhere Montana, all I could really do was look up at the night sky and dream.”

That was his message to CHS students – “find your dream to move forward and move.”

Education has played an important role in Elton’s life, and he wants to impress upon the students to “never stop learning or searching for more knowledge.”

For those kids who may have an interest in a STEM field, Elton had an encouraging word – “STEM classes and careers may seem tough or beyond reach, but their rewards are amazing.”

Elton is a prime example for local students to always reach for the stars, because you never know – one day you may be working among them.

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