Training Our Future

  • Published
  • By Lauren Fingers
  • AFRL Propulsion Directorate
According to personnel experts here, 45 percent of engineers are predicted to retire within the next 5-10 years. Leaders such as Mr. Doug Bowers, new director of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate, say something must be done, and that something is the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Wright Scholar Research Assistant Program. 

Developed by Mr. John Horner in 2002, the program continues to grow with a skyrocketing success rate. Not only is the program size increasing, but each summer approximately 60 percent of Wright Scholars return to continue their career at Wright-Patterson. Still, with the achievements of the past classes, the 2008 class of scholars stands out. With an average GPA of 4.0 and almost all in the top 5 percent of their class, these masterminds contribute extensively to AFRL. 

Not only do this summer's scholars carry an interest in math and science, but they strive to see their interests put into action while encouraging younger students to become involved as well. 

Although they may sound like superheroes, they're really just trying to make a difference while dreaming of having superpowers, and graduated scholars are proof of this program's constructive effects. Aaron Scheid, Wright Scholar class of 2007, states that the program completely enforced his positive opinion of engineering and helped him decide that this is what he wants to do with his life. Scheid, the student who once asked his teacher for extra math problems and wishes for the superpower of telekinesis, claims there is nothing like the "cutting edge technology" at Wright-Patt and that it has been a great opportunity working with it. 

Sarah Haines, class of 2007, says it would be cool to have the superpower of invisibility, but she would never hide from her new job. 

"There's always something to look forward to," she states. 

Augusta Runyon, class of 2007, now studying at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, stresses how important it is to get more people involved. Runyon believes having the superpower of teleportation would be the most beneficial to her - helping her get to work fast, especially with gas prices, and get more done. 

From another view-point, LeeAnn Perkins, class of 2007, feels the best part of the whole experience was working with her mentors and colleagues. "They really care," she says, "I feel like I've gained two moms and a sister." 

Being a Wright Scholar has so much more to offer than meets the eye. Occasionally students join the program completely unsure about what they want to do with their lives only to find that science and engineering can be right for anyone. Mary Untener, class of 2008, who dreams of having the superpower to fly and treated the program as a trial in the beginning, is now convinced that returning to Wright-Patt is a definite career possibility. 

Students not only get hands-on experience, but they attend lectures, tour a C-5 Galaxy airlifter, and take a trip to the National Composites Center, which was a favorite of Robert French, class of 2008. French remembers his first fun memory of science as reading stories of the Magic School Bus. He never thought that one day he'd be taking part in experiments just like the ones he read about, minus the bus. French claims he would even want the superpower of bending time so he can spend more of it working on new projects. 

To Jonathan Demeter, class of 2008, his father is his role model. "He taught me to be hard working and determined," states Demeter. Jonathan applied for the program in 2007 but was unsuccessful. Due to the determination his father instilled in him, Jon refused to give up his dream and tried again. Now a scholar in 2008, Demeter represents the hard-working, determined qualities portrayed by every student from his class. Just as the scholars have their own role models, they are also being role models for others. The class stands out by offering to get younger kids involved in science and engineering. Many believe the education should begin in elementary school and consist of hands-on demonstrations. The scholars agree that in junior high, they should be exposed to demonstrations as well, but the focus should be showing how their subject material applies to real life. Most said that for high school students there should be a program to inform them of the number of engineering opportunities and how the fields consist of many different paths. 

These scholars seem to know what's important. They not only do their job, but they do it with motivation. "It's about helping lives of Americans, whether it's through the disabled with prosthetics or the economy with new energy sources, it's just great seeing how this work is improving the lifestyle of others worldwide," says Demeter. While the Wright Scholars may appear to be superheroes, they are just ordinary people who love science and engineering and are working to make their dreams a reality. 

For more information about the Wright Scholar Program please see the employment link on the website at or call (937) 255-1870.