Maddy Fox, Daily File Photo
When senior Joel Gagnon was in middle school, he did a research project on Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean.
Gagnon said that research project inspired him to choose aerospace engineering as his major in college. Like Gagnon, MacLean was also a gymnast.
“I’ve always wanted to push my limits,” Gagnon said. “I saw a little bit of myself in him because he’s a gymnast who made it big in the astronaut world.”
Senior Jack Kramer, Gagnon’s teammate, came to Minnesota more than three years ago and said he didn’t know what his major would be. He later chose to major in aerospace engineering as a sophomore.
Kramer said since choosing aerospace engineering, he spends a lot of time with Gagnon in class. The two are in their final season with Minnesota men’s gymnastics and the gymnasts have fun learning about the same subjects, Kramer said.
“Any time we’re analyzing something, we’ll get technical with it,” Kramer said. “We have all these inside jokes coming from our aerospace background we’ve developed together.”
The University of Minnesota’s aerospace engineering program is ranked fourth in the nation by the Princeton Review’s Gourman Report on Undergraduate Programs. As of Fall 2017, there are 350 undergraduate students and 90 graduate students in the program.
Head coach Mike Burns said Gagnon and Kramer are analytical thinkers, which helps in the gym.
“Our sport is complex,” Burns said. “If you have an analytical way of thinking about life in general, it transfers over to gymnastics. There’s a lot of analysis that goes on in a short amount of time. When you’re not actually doing it, you’re thinking about it. When you’re thinking about it, you can find ways to tackle any kind of problem you might have.”
During the 2016-17 academic year, Minnesota’s aerospace engineering program awarded 94 degrees. 70 of these degrees were bachelor’s degrees and 24 were master’s or Ph.D. degrees.
Kramer said he and Gagnon bring science into everything in their lives. The two even try to help improve their teammates’ performance through science.
“We always analyze things from a physics or mechanics [perspective],” Kramer said. “Whenever I bring science into it, [my teammates] all roll their eyes because I overanalyze everything. I have to be a nerd.”
Gagnon said he has learned valuable skills through his major. The senior, along with Kramer, earned academic All-Big Ten honors last season.
“No matter where I go from here, I’ll have a solid foundation that will help me in any career,” Gagnon said. “I’m taking a class right now about spacecraft dynamics. It’s fascinating to learn about that.”
Kramer said he will miss his fellow aerospace engineering major once they both graduate this spring.
“It’s going to be weird taking an analytical approach without Joel next to me to talk to,” Kramer said. “It’s definitely going to be weird working in the engineering field without Joel next to me.”