Residence: McKinney, Texas
Occupation: Raytheon, vice president of Communications and Public Affairs
Q: What is STEM?
A: STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math education and represents knowledge and skills critical to the defense and space industry and to our nation — not just to Raytheon as one company.
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Q: Why did it bring you to Warner Robins?
A: In May, we opened a fun STEM exhibit geared toward kids that will be at the Museum of Aviation through July 4. It’s called MathAlive! and on May 24 we invited Robins Air Force Base families to come see it and have some barbecue with us — just a have an enjoyable evening.
Q: End of school seems a good time to give kids and families something to do. Was that the plan?
A: It’s fortunate, but actually the exhibit has been touring since 2012 and right now is on a tour of just four U.S. military bases. Robins is one. But it also represents a larger effort by Raytheon to inspire STEM learning in a lot of different ways, like through our Mathcounts competition and MathMovesU, which is primarily a STEM mentoring program.
Q: Mentoring require more than a corporate directive. Doesn’t it need individual employees committed to it as well?
A: Absolutely. Another program that shows that for Raytheon is a program that’s also a big deal at the museum here: the First Lego League Robotics Competition. One of the education programs at the museum, Starbase Robins, hosts a big First Lego League Super Regional Qualifier here every year. First Lego League has students build robots and take them through different challenges. A Raytheon employee in Hermosa Beach, California, mentored the current world champion robotics team, the Beach Bots. That’s pretty exciting, but the really cool part is that when he was a kid he was part of a world champion robotics team. It helped inspire him toward his career and now he wants other kids to get that opportunity, that inspiration. Plus to me it shows doing all this works.
Q: What about that? Why do you need all this to work?
A: Raytheon co-sponsors a study called the STEM Index that has shown we need engineers — badly. We could fall short. It shows we need engineers and other math and science professionals not just so our industry will have employees in the future but, as I said, to help safeguard our nation. And we need to get women, minorities — everyone, thinking about careers and serving in STEM areas.
Q: That’s obviously a pointedly Middle Georgia interest, isn’t it?
A: Engineers are our dreamers and innovators, our builders who are critical to solving the most difficult problems we face now and in the future. They go to work and do that every day here in Middle Georgia. They do things like ensuring the warfighters we see at Robins keep a distinct advantage in the air. We have to pursue and inspire and educate the best and brightest to get on board as software engineers, systems engineers and in all the other related fields.
Q: But wouldn’t most kids rather design video games?
A: We have this really powerful mission where we can design things to keep people and our nation safe in the real world and it’s terribly exciting work. Our mission, part of the role of this exhibit and similar efforts, is to help make that clear. You get to work in a great environment with great people doing amazing work. Be a hacker but do it professionally and do it for the good guys.
Q: Is there really a critical need?
A: Yes, and let me just put it this way: for Raytheon, engineers are 65 percent of our workforce. Studies are showing among the largest aerospace companies, nearly 30 percent of the engineering workforce is eligible to retire this year. This year! Not only is there a pending engineer gap but more than half of CEOs surveyed cited a lack of STEM skills in the workforce as a “significant problem” for their companies.
Q: Those are business problems, what’s the down to Earth significance?
A: Everything we do or build, we do to help members of the military complete their missions and return home safely. Day after day they keep our country safe and we owe them that. That’s pretty practical.
Q: Which leads back to real people and community. A fun exhibit — and a free barbecue supper — seem more community service than national defense, don’t they?
A: We support the communities we work and live in. We have 80 employees who work in Warner Robins supporting programs like F-15 Radar Sustainment and the HH-60G Helicopter Program Office. Obviously we want to support them and their children but beyond that we want to empower all children and inspire them toward rewarding lives and careers. Along the way we get to give back to the men and women of the military community who serve us all. And we can have fun doing it.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.