Ben Sego spent many years working with NASA, but in 2007, he returned home to Glendale and recently became a member of the Hardin County School Board.
Sego, 57, got a job with Langley’s NASA Research Center when his wife got a job in Virginia. His background was in scientific computing.
The center is a wind tunnel and flight dynamics facility that also practiced space science, he said. Sego worked through a NASA contractor because you can get a job at NASA quicker by going through a contractor, he said.
Sego worked on satellites, space probe missions and completed science experiments for space missions.
He was working with NASA in 1986 when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. Sego later worked for the company that helped search for pieces of the wreckage after the explosion. That company invented search antilogarithms to search underwater and in tunnels.
Among his various jobs, Sego worked at a math house which exclusively works with math related projects.
While there, he worked to install radar processing software on the U.S.S. Wisconsin, a recommissioned WWII battleship.
The system Sego installed is used to receive information about potential contacts locations and how they related to search tracks, he said.
The company he worked for wrote the software that ran the combat engagement center. He was supposed to go out for war games training to see how well the software performed. One of the officers pulled him aside and told him to get his stuff and get off the boat but couldn’t tell him why. The officer was trying to save him a trip to the war zone. Sego called his supervisor and told him what was going on and later was told to stay on board and go out with the ship.
A few hours out to sea, the captain told them on the loudspeaker system they were deploying as a part of Operation Desert Shield. He was stuck there for a little while to make sure the system was working properly. Sego said he got to leave the battleship by helicopter.
“I would have never have thought when I was in college studying math and writing programs it would lead to things like that, but it led to some pretty cool things,” he said.
After a variety of math-related jobs in Virginia, Sego moved back to Glendale in 2007 to spend more time with family.
His and his wife, Pat, still are required to travel for work. Pat flies to Washington, D.C., each week. A lot of Sego’s job can be done at home, so he takes on a lot of the responsibility with the children.
Sego often works with computerizing big data and documents. He develops software to convert large amounts of documents or reverse engineering technology to make it work for a company.
His work has taken him to some interesting places.
A storage warehouse in an old coal mind reminded him of the end of the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” he said. After driving deep into the mine, he got to a big room to work on a large project document scanner. A big vault door was opened and he saw file cabinets and bankers boxes that lined the walls as far as he could see.
He also has been to top secret document storage facilities such as Los Alamos.
“I’ve touched some really unusual data,” he said.
Sego worked with the VIP death files for the Los Angeles County corner that included records for Marilyn Monroe, Robert Kennedy and Natalie Wood.
He’s also worked with Mormon ancestry records. Some of that data was on paper tape and helped them find a way to optically read the fragile tape.
Sego’s interest in autonomous robotics got him involved volunteering with VEX at Hardin County Schools’ Early College and Career Center.
“Mr. Sego has been a staple with the VEX Robotics program since we started in 2014,” said Jason Neagle, engineering teacher at the school. “He has mentored teams, elementary to high school level and helped teams compete all the way to the Worlds Competition.”
Neagle said Sego has a wealth of knowledge to share with students in technology and programming.
“When students have tough problems with their robotics projects outside the box and beyond the normal scope of the project, they go to Mr. Sego for advice and guidance,” he said. Sego also volunteered in the aviation classroom at EC3. He learned to fly planes when working on programs for aeronautic refueling with the Air Force at Langley.
After a conversation with Mike Kinney, a former teacher of his at East Hardin High School, he decided to join the Hardin County School Board.
He said Kinney, a former school board member, told him he would be pretty good at being on the school board.
Sego asked if it was a fun and interesting thing to do and Kinney replied, “No.”
“It’s really hard and people will be upset with you most of the time, but I still think you should do it,” Sego said Kinney told him.
When Kinney stepped down, Sego applied for that position and the state picked him for the job. He also won an election to continue on the board.
“Ben’s first dedication is his commitment to the students of HCS,” said Teresa Morgan, school district superintendent.
She said he was an example of a lifelong learner.
“As a board member, he has made it his personal responsibility to educate himself about each issue to ensure his decisions are in the best interest of students,” she said.