From being a missionary in twenty countries, to completing multiple internships at NASA, to teaching TPS students about the stars and planets beyond earth, Mr. Middleton has lived a full life of ministry and education.
Me: How long have you been teaching at TPS?
Mr. Middleton: Twelve years, since 2008 when I took an early retirement from Thomas Nelson Community College. My wife and I wanted to move back to Thailand to continue full-time ministry while we were still relatively young. I used teaching as a way to support myself while doing full-time ministry. Even now, I still make about three trips a year back to Thailand.
Me: What did you do while serving overseas?
Mr. Middleton: In the 80s, our focus was on evangelism using outdoor large-scale meetings. Later in the 90s, our focus changed to sharing the creation message at many schools and colleges in Thailand as a tool for evangelism. Now our focus is mostly on training the next generation of missionaries with a strong understanding of the Bible. We are independent missionaries and are not a part of any specific organization. This gives me the flexibility to work with many different churches and ministries.
Me: What were your favorite countries that you visited?
Mr. Middleton: There have been many, but Thailand the most. We have spent about twenty years cumulatively in Thailand, beginning in 1981. But we have traveled to many different countries, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, China, Japan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, and Nigeria to name a few.
Me: What kind of work did you do with NASA
Mr. Middleton: I have been a technology education teacher in Hampton and Newport News for both high schools and college. Since we were in the field of technology, I had the opportunity to spend summers at NASA Langley or a subcontractor of NASA, in many internships. During this time, I was able to rotate to many different areas and get a broad view of the work at NASA. One example was spending time in each of NASA’s many wind tunnels. Their wind tunnels could range in speeds from a Mach 20 blow down tunnel to nominal speeds. In their full-scale wind tunnel, which was about the size of a gym, they could actually fly a small plane inside the building. Of course, the plane would appear to hover as the air would flow past it. Another was working to calibrate the measuring instruments that were used in research. I also had opportunities to have internships at Newport News Shipyard, where they build aircraft carriers for the United States Navy. While I was at NASA, I had access to their technical library and I really enjoyed watching the videos dealing with their research. These videos were not only from NASA Langley, but from NASA in general. I watched many of them that dealt with astronomy. I had a lot of good opportunities there! NASA Langley was mainly focused on research. At that time, they were had limited involvement in the space program, although they are getting more involved now. Their research included re-entry vehicles, SCRAM jet engines, and other things like that. The acoustical engineering department had a number of things they were working, such as reducing the noise of sonic booms to the irritating noise from wind farms. They had a sound room designed on its own foundation inside of another building that shuts out all exterior noises. When you went in there and closed the door, it was so quiet you could hear your heartbeat. It was amazingly quiet! They also had an auditorium where they could simulate anything passing by. You could sit there and hear what sounded like a big jet plane flying overhead. The noise would pass from the back all the way up to the front, and your reactions to these noises were recorded. They could do it with trains, or basically anything. Wind tunnels were another big area of research for NASA Langley. Nowadays, they are pretty much focused on computer simulation, so they are closing down a lot of their wind tunnels. Although I was more of a helper, I got a good grasp of operations there.
Me: What has been your favorite class that you’ve taught?
Mr. Middleton: I have enjoyed teaching, and had the opportunity to teach, many different subjects over the years. Altogether, I have had about thirty years of teaching. I spent the most time teaching CAD at the community college, where we had a designed co-op programs with Newport News Shipyard and at NASA Langley Not only was all the students’ tuition paid by these companies, but they were guaranteed jobs when they graduated.
Me: What made you want to teach astronomy?
Mr. Middleton: I have been involved in a creation ministry since 1992. In most areas of science, the evidence for creation is overwhelming. However, astronomy provides some of the biggest challenges for a creationist, especially a young-Earth creationist, and I love the challenge. My goal is to present the ideas and reasoning behind all the different theories, and at the same time let the students see the glory of God in the universe.
Me: What should a TPS student expect if they take one of your classes?
Mr. Middleton: My goal is to challenge the students to think outside the box and learn to take on challenges that are beyond the scope of the course. Many of my classes include final projects where I want them to incorporate things that we have not covered in class.
I loved getting to hear not only about Mr. Middleton’s internships with NASA, but also his work on the mission field. I hope he can continue to teach TPS students for years to come.