Jerry Pipes, a software engineer at Boeing and Hazelwood East High School alumnus, recently visited with a class of students at Hazelwood East High School to offer career advice and praise the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, classes.
Pipes graduated from Hazelwood East High in 1986. He then served in the U.S. Marines and graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1996. He received degrees in mathematics and computer science. After graduating, Pipes was hired by McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing; and has been an engineer there for nearly 17 years.
While at Boeing, Pipes has worked on the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Software Test Facility; F/A-18 Super Hornet, Aircrew Trainer and AH-64D Apache, Aircrew Trainer. He explained to the students that the aircrew trainers are flight simulators. His team designs obstacles for the pilots during training.
During his presentation, Pipes encouraged students interested in engineering to take STEM courses.
“The STEM disciplines are very important for engineers,” said Pipes. “Those courses are the foundations we build on. Engineers are involved in a lot of everyday things we all use. Smart phones would not be possible without engineers. I know for some people it is hard to imagine what it would be like without them.”
Pipes told the students that engineers solve problems, and they would not be able to solve problems without the help of the STEM courses. He encouraged any student interested in becoming an engineer to continue taking STEM courses, and to find something they are interested in.
“The best advice I could give a high school student would be to find something they like, something they are genuinely interested in, and let their passion for that subject guide their learning experience,” said Pipes.
“That should be true for anyone, not just engineers. I liked physics when I was in high school. I thought it was cool that you could write a formula on the board that explains what’s going on around you. I also liked computers. I knew I wanted to become involved in computers from the time I was about 14 years old.”
Pipes said he was happy to present the information to the students, and felt it was important to be able to give them more information about the engineering field.
“Looking back at my high school days, I wish there had been someone willing to come in and talk to me about the career opportunities that were available,” said Pipes. “Guidance counselors do a good job, but they can only tell you so much, especially if they have never worked in the industry you are interested in. I’m happy to share the information.”
Pipes also credited his time at HEHS to helping him prepare for his future.
“The fact that I was allowed to take as much math as I wanted while I was at East laid a strong foundation for me as I pursued my computer science and math majors in college,” said Pipes. “When I got to Mizzou, and took my first college calculus class, I actually wrote a letter to my calculus teacher at East thanking her for being such a good teacher, because the course was a breeze for me.”
Even though it was not a social visit, Pipes enjoyed his visit at the HEHS and the time he spent with the students.
“As with most people I’m sure, I was struck by how many things have changed since I was in school,” said Pipes. “The building has been physically transformed to the point that I didn’t recognize some of it anymore. But I had a good time at East, and my visit brought back a lot of good memories.
“It was great to spend time with the students. I was very pleased that the students did not hesitate to ask questions. The students were engaged; it helped make the experience rewarding. The experience was great. I hope to do it again.”
The students also enjoyed the visit with Pipes. Daniel Belger, a junior, said he is interested in engineering and took away some good things from the visit.
“It was awesome,” said Belger. “I’m so interested in engineering, any information about Boeing and engineering makes me want to strive for it now. This helped me feel more confident about studying engineering.”
Miracle Saines, a sophomore, said the presentation helped her to have a better understanding of engineering.
“I really liked Mr. Pipes,” said Saines. “He helped me see the industry more clearly. He helped show us were we need to be to if we want to become an engineer.”