Richard Noll was the first person in his family to attend high school. Following that, he joined the military. “I had to support my family,” he said, “so I couldn’t afford to go to college.”
One of his English teachers encouraged him to learn on his own and pursue his technical interests. That support, he said, led to an incredible career that he wouldn’t have predicted.
Today, Noll performs high tech laser metrology work in Boeing Commercial Airplanes Fabrication in Auburn, Washington. He also tries to ‘play forward’ the inspiration he received from his childhood teacher by sharing his own experience when he volunteers in STEM outreach classroom activities during Engineers Week and throughout the year.
Boeing engineers and employees have fanned out across Puget Sound during Engineers Week this year, engaging approximately 4,700 students in more than 150 classrooms across fifteen school districts.
Elaine Vosk and Shannon Thornhill, also part of Boeing Fabrication, visited Kentwood High School in Covington, Wash. for their first Engineers Week volunteer experience. “I like teaching others,” Vosk says. “I like breaking down complicated concepts into more simplistic forms and I try to use simple non-jargon language. When you combine that with a hands-on activity in a fun environment, people usually can grasp the idea and be successful. That is very fulfilling for me.”
Thornhill agrees, adding it’s rewarding for both the students and the Boeing volunteers. “This was super fun,” she said. “It was really rewarding to see the kids eagerly trying to grasp the concept of how electricity flows, and then seeing their faces light up when it worked.”
In order to support STEM employee volunteers like Vosk, Thornhill and Noll, Boeing Global Engagement has created FUTURE U, a suite of educational resources to empower employees to share their passion for aerospace with the next generation. The resources were developed in a partnership between Boeing and Discovery Education.
The ready-to-go STEM activities give kids hands-on experiences so they can apply themselves and learn. “When you get them to do hands-on,” Noll emphasizes, “the activity of their hands enhances the ability of their brains to absorb things.”
Engineers across Boeing played an integral part in creating the design challenges which focus on space exploration, aircraft design, satellites and more.
“Our engineers are key to making these challenges successful because they can break down these complex concepts into activities that are easy to understand and fun,” said Reyna Hampton, Boeing Global Engagement FUTURE U program manager. “Inspiring students to pursue STEM careers is so important, and Boeing employees can make a huge impact. We want to get as many employees involved as possible.”
FUTURE U activities, which are available online at BoeingFUTUREU.com, include downloadable STEM activities, Boeing-inspired design challenge kits and other digital resources.
Will Wilson, Rachel Ayres and Dawn Angus