By Steve Nakata, Division of Student Affairs

EVERETT, Wash. – A recent visit to Boeing’s Airplane Integration Center ignited a flurry of ideas in Allyssa Hampton’s mind.

The Washington State University engineering student and nine others from WSU’s Team Mentoring Program (TMP) toured several Boeing facilities in Everett, Wash., last week.

“I started thinking maybe there are ways we can better protect the metal and paint on planes from corrosion caused by outside elements,” Hampton said. “It would be an interesting thing to look into.”

That kind of creative thinking is exactly what J. Manuel Acevedo, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Services, said the trip was designed to spark.

TMP is a collaborative program led by WSU’s Division of Student Affairs and four academic colleges that aims to support students majoring in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and pre-health disciplines. Boeing has been a major contributor to the program for the past 10 years.

Alumni take the lead

Tapping into miles Alaska Airlines donated to WSU for educational purposes, the TMP students and a program graduate assistant flew to Seattle and back at no cost to them to participate in the tour. The entire itinerary was created by TMP alumni and Boeing engineers Kye Terry, Corinna Cisneros and Victor Barona.

“As soon as we secured the airline tickets, the TMP alumni started planning the visit,” Acevedo said. “They were really excited to host this group.”

In addition to the Airplane Integration Center, where the designs of planes come to life in the largest airline manufacturing facility in the world, the alumni took the students to the Safety Promotion Center. There they learned how past tragedies in the airline industry spurred new innovations making air and space flight safer.

“We wanted to give the students a better understanding of what engineering jobs are like in the aerospace industry and give them an opportunity to network with professionals who can help prepare them for this competitive job market,” said Terry, a 2011 WSU graduate and design engineer for Boeing.

Students sitting in pilot and co-pilot seats in replicated cockpit at Boeing.
Students get a view of what pilots see via a Boeing cockpit replica.

Sophomore Jordan Getty said one of the most memorable parts of the trip for him was getting the chance to see the 787th Boeing model 787 being built. He was particularly impressed with how Boeing, through years of design changes, has drastically reduced the number of hours it takes to construct a plane. That efficiency now allows them to produce many more airplanes than previously thought possible.

“It’s insanely important for students like me to have an opportunity like this,” Getty said. “Whether it’s constructing the planes themselves or helping to design them, I had no idea of all the types of jobs you can do.”

A chance to network

Following the Boeing tours, the students attended a networking dinner with TMP alumni living in the Seattle area. Acevedo said the students took full advantage of the opportunity to ask the recent graduates questions and were impressed with their rapid success.

“These alums were recently students themselves and are now serving in roles such as project managers,” Acevedo said. “They are moving up the ladder and doing incredible things.”

Hampton said majoring in STEM can be intimidating, and it is tempting to assume that all your class-mates are smarter than you or are extraordinary. She said hearing alumni talk about their experiences as WSU engineering students helped her realize that one does not need to be perfect to achieve success.

“Not all of them had perfect grades, some had to repeat classes, others took an extra year, and some changed their major multiple times,” Hampton said. “It is encouraging to me that they are so successful now.”

In partnership with the Division of Student Affairs, TMP is coordinated by the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture; College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural and Resource Sciences; College of Arts and Sciences; and College of Veterinary Medicine.