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Career Panel with William J. Hughes Technical Center

After school on Tuesday, May 28, the William J. Hughes Technical Center, part of the Federal Aviation Administration, offered a career panel to DHS students interested in aviation or aviation-related STEM Careers. The Technical Center is located in Atlantic County, near the Atlantic City airport, and offers outreach and programming to schools and students such as student tour days, job shadowing, an annual Aviation STEM Day, and career panels.

The career panel featured four guest speakers who shared their experiences, including the education and expertise needed to enter their career path. Pete Sparacino, a retired civil and structural engineer, led the hour-long forum. The panel format allowed students to not only learn about those experiences, but to ask questions as well.

What type of career pathway has each panel member pursued?

Dr. Alex Konkel is a research psychologist. Research psychologists use sciences of how people think to make sure all the systems in aviation work well for the people that have to use them.

Alexander Revolus is a general engineer, performing test and evaluation for primary/secondary radar systems. Revolus explained their pathway from intern to full-time employee with the Technical Center, and that the job involves travel to do testing evaluation nationwide.

Don Barbagallo is a retired civil engineer. He worked for the FAA in the airport pavement section where we researched ways to make pavements stronger and longer lasting, and previously had worked in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Pete Sparacino is also a retired engineer, who had a career in civil engineering involving airport safety with the FAA as well as previous work in structural engineering at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Is a Bachelors degree adequate, or is a Masters degree preferred? How competitive are engineering positions and internships?

While education levels will vary by position, it is possible to become an engineer with a Bachelors degree. The panel recommended pursuing a Masters degree once hired as employers like theirs may offer tuition reimbursement programs, salary increases, or promotion opportunities based on criteria such as additional higher education. They explained that while you will get a good general understanding during Bachelors programs, Masters degrees allow students to really specialize in a subject area.

What types of college experiences, besides studying, are helpful for prospective engineers? What advice would they give their high school selves?

Building soft skills such as communication and leadership through opportunities such as student organizations, professional organizations, resident advisors are helpful, as you will need to be able to explain your ideas and thought processes. Additionally, electives like technical writing are also helpful, as you will need to write reports and professional correspondences.  

Barbagallo elaborated on his experience as a resident advisor (RA) and how it was helpful for him, as he utilized people skills, problem solving, and had increased responsibilities. Revolus  spoke of his experience with professional organizations, such as taking the initiative to bring a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to his university.

What are examples of interesting engineering projects panel members have completed?

Dr. Alex Konkel mentioned research projects involving drones, or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), such as determining what problems or implications people may feel regarding drones. An example scenario provided would be examining how a driver would feel if they were driving under a drone. Barbagallo mentioned projects like catapult systems to launch planes off aircraft carrier ships as well as large cranes designed to handle nuclear loads and how to ensure no nuclear incidents would happen if something were to fail. All of the panelists offered projects demonstrating problem solving and critical thinking. 

Students who are interested in job shadowing can contact Mrs. Hutchinson. Job shadowing is a one day event where a high school student participates in the work day of an engineer at the Technical Center.

The William J. Hughes Technical Center also recently participated in our 7th annual STEM Fair. Delran STEM would like to thank them for their continued support, as well as to thank all students who participated in the career panel.

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