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News | Feb. 7, 2019

Boeing St. Louis pilots young minds toward STEM

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

Each year, pilots and personnel from Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing St. Louis take a break from the high-altitude world of combat jets and ground themselves amongst area youth to reinforce STEM principles.

The contract management office partners with its Boeing counterparts, local military commands, community leaders and area businesses to develop and execute the science, technology, engineering and math events. In addition to the annual onsite occurrences, DCMA volunteers travel to individual schools for demonstrations.

Over the years, the on- and off-site agenda has varied in size and scope. Area students and family members have experienced interactive displays, facility tours, a virtual reality Blue Angels demonstration, gear and equipment exhibitions, and tech demonstrations that include 3D printing and robotics.

Navy Capt. Paul Filardi, the DCMA Boeing St. Louis commander, and his team manage more than 4,200 contracts valued at $148 billion to include the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-15 platforms. It is a high-value mission packed with opportunities for achievement. Despite that, one of his favorite accomplishments are the STEM events.

“The team members’ ability to relate ideas and experiences help students better understand the importance of a STEM education. It really makes it an enjoyable experience,” said Filardi. “The volunteers do this without leadership having to say ‘because it’s important.’ They want to be here, and it’s truly worth it when I see the smiles on their faces, both from the DCMA employees and the students.”

Ryan Maichel, a DCMA Boeing St. Louis quality assurance specialist, is one such volunteer. He has participated in two events, firstly in his agency role and secondly in his capacity as a Civil Air Patrol second lieutenant.

While Maichel has been involved in various community outreach efforts for more than 10 years, he said he enjoys the STEM events because he hopes to motivate others the way he once was.

“I remember the moment I was wowed during a STEM event in seventh grade involving rockets and a flight simulator … it led me to my current career fields,” he said. “My own inspirational experience, multiple job backgrounds, in addition to bringing substitute teaching skills to the table, aids my hopeful efforts to inspire young minds the way I was inspired.”

For team member Timothy Bailey Sr., his motivation to participate in outreach didn’t come from a STEM event but from his family’s patriarch.

“Unfortunately, no similar programs of this nature existed during my childhood,” said Bailey Sr., a DCMA Boeing St. Louis quality assurance engineer. “I just remember learning how to repair autos, weld and braze pipe, and housing construction etc. from my father. He came from the south when most tasks were performed manually. He was a World War II veteran who was a member of Gen. Patton’s famous Red Ball Express. Most of my adolescence was experienced in the late-70s and early-80s.”

Using his father’s lessons as a launching point, Bailey Sr. said he has been blessed to work in technology-driven fields his entire life. He enjoys passing his passion for tech to the next generation, which includes his son Tim Jr. who assist at events with drone demonstrations.

“A kid’s facial expressions when they are given the remote for a robot, airplane, drone or helicopter … and then making the object move, is priceless,” said Bailey Sr.

While the attending children always seem to enjoy themselves, the event’s benefits extend to both presenter and attendee, as Maichel discovered during his second event.

“Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded how interesting my job is. At the Boeing Family Day, I took five high school kids on a flight line tour,” he said. “They were overwhelmed with excitement seeing the EA-18G, F-15SA, the trainer, the unmanned aerial refueler and all the ordnance inside. I answered question after question about the products on display, and as I did, it filled me with the pride I first had when I started at this facility. It’s easy to get lost in and sometimes burnt out from our daily grinds here, those kids re-instilled my own excitement to come in to work every day.”

And that is just what Filardi hopes is an ancillary effect of this entire effort.

“I advocate for outreach and service to our community, which results in better teamwork across the board,” he said. “Including STEM outreach, it is important to be a cornerstone of our community along with the Combined Federal Campaign, command sponsored diversity and inclusion special topic events, and honoring our local veterans at the workplace in conjunction with our Boeing counterparts and the greater St. Louis area.”