BDS engineer helps students take flight

January 14, 2019 in Community

Chris Miller grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and from an early age he was fascinated with flying.

Today, he is a flight simulations lab manager on the MQ-25 program, and he’s sharing his passion for flying with students in his hometown.

A few years ago, Chris built a flight simulator consisting of four computers and flight controls similar to a Cessna 172. It’s housed in the back of a trailer, and a few times a month, Chris drives his mobile simulator to schools in the area and guides students through take-off and landing.

“It’s great to see the smiles on their faces when they’ve accomplished something they didn’t know they could do,” Chris said. “They may not all become pilots, and they may not all become engineers. But working through something challenging like landing an airplane may give them the confidence to pursue other challenges in their lives.”

For his dedication to getting students interested in STEM, Chris was honored at this year’s Boeing Leadership Meeting with the 2019 Chairman’s Award for Employee Community Engagement, an award given by Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg to recognize the contributions of employees who go above and beyond serving their communities.

“The volunteering spirit I see in Chris and across our Boeing teams is inspiring. Our people care enough to give their time and expertise to make a difference in the world. The Chairman’s Award for Employee Community Engagement is about honoring those who are champions in their communities every day,” he said.

In addition to the flight simulator, Chris also helped develop the Boeing-inspired design challenge, “Design to Fly” which is a hands-on project teaching students about flight control systems. This challenge is available to 22,000 students in the U.S., Finland, and Israel. Chris also shared his simulator with pilots at the United States Air Force’s “Eyes Above the Horizon,” an outreach event to expose students to STEM and aerospace careers.

“I’ve always been most impressed by those who lead when no one else is watching, and that’s exactly what Chris has done,” said Shelley Lavender, senior vice president, Strike, Surveillance and Mobility, and St. Louis site leader. “He has inspired so many students to dream about careers in engineering and math and flight.”

“He’s communicating to the students that your math classes matter, your science classes matter, and it’s pretty cool stuff we do at Boeing,” said Kevin Sheehan, senior manager, MQ-25 flight simulation labs.

As a Chairman’s Award winner, Chris will be able to select a nonprofit to which Boeing will make a $10,000 grant.

“It’s easy to go out into the community and share something that’s so important to me,” Chris said. “It’s a joy to keep doing it.”

In the future, Chris says he’d love to build a few more simulators so he can leave them at schools and give teachers more opportunities to integrate the flying lessons into their curriculum.

“When I started doing this I wanted to reach just one or two students,” Chris said. “The feedback I’ve gotten from the community was so powerful that I’ve been able to reach hundreds of students with one idea.”