2011 Extraordinary Teen
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: On a typical day, after
his housemates leave in the
morning, Levine practices his
drums for an hour or two—
getting in a zone akin to meditation.
The 26-year-old is serious about
his music, often playing in bars
and clubs in Washington, D.C.
In the afternoon, Levine turns
to art—painting in his home
studio in Riverdale, Maryland,
or working on a sculpture at a
woodshop in Rockville. His ;rst
big sale was a 16-by-14-foot
wooden sculpture, “Trees are
Beautiful,” that his alma mater,
Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, purchased
to hang in its visitors center.
Levine’s main focus now is on a
wooden sculpture commissioned
for a Chevy Chase home.
Evenings are devoted to
private in-home art lessons
for kids ages 7 to 17. Many of
his students are on the autism
spectrum, a population he
worked with as an aide at The
Frost School in Rockville.
“Ultimately, my goal is to have
a creative center of music and
art—a family business with my
brothers—a gathering place for
people to meet each other and
exchange ideas,” says Levine.
“We would offer classes in
things like painting, sculpture,
woodworking and music.”
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
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 spe-
cies—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
Does he want to explore space ;rsthand?
“Absolutely. I will ride as soon as I have the
opportunity,” he says.