March-April 2019 | Parenting

Where Are They Now?

For the 10th year of the Bethesda Magazine Extraordinary Teen Awards, we checked in with some past winners

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Courtesy photo.


Ben Lewis

2011 Extraordinary Teen

Photo by Erick Gibson.

Then: Ben Lewis always loved building things, and he aspired to be an engineer. He was the captain of Thomas S. Wootton High School’s Rubik’s Cube team and completed internships at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Now: Lewis, 26, works in Kent, Washington, as a systems engineer at Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturing company. Owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is working toward opening up space to regular citizens. Lewis works on engineering and launch operations for the crew capsule for New Shepard, a suborbital and reusable rocket designed to take everyday people and payloads into space.

“Space is just really cool,” Lewis says of his career choice, which was inspired by watching space shuttle launches while growing up.

At Rice University in Houston, Lewis majored in physics and designed vehicles with the Solar Car Team. He interned at a lab in Berlin, Germany, helping build a new type of particle accelerator. While earning a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, he worked at BioServe Space Technologies, designing and building a microscope used on the International Space Station to study images of human heart cells beating under the effects of microgravity.

“I have a strong feeling that part of our strategy as a human race—to combat global warming and to move forward as a species—is to, inevitably, move into space,” Lewis says. “Now is almost an explosive time in space travel. We are on the verge of making space travel really accessible and affordable.”

Does he want to explore space firsthand? “Absolutely. I will ride as soon as I have the opportunity,” he says.