MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — More than 3,000 job openings in aerospace engineering are expected over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the median average pay is over $122,000 a year.
A new science society in Manatee County formed in October, and it has created a mentor program to help experienced professionals guide the next generation of scientists.
“The idea is to create this environment for our region that attracts scientists, their families and their companies,” said Nick Barbi with the Manatee-Sarasota Science and Technology Society.
Who can say they have built a rocket?
“I just love the sound of a rocket. It’s just extremely loud,” said Sebastian Grabowski, a high school student at Riverview High School.
Grabowski has been doing it since he was a child — working with wires and screws is only part of it. As he works on the rocket, he points out one of the most important parts.
“It’s the brains of the rocket,” he said.
He says it’s in his blood, and that he gets it from his uncles — one was a helicopter engineer, and the other a fighter jet pilot.
“I would like to be an aerospace engineer in the future,” he said.
The high school senior loves making rockets. He wanted to share that passion with other students, so he started a club with the Suncoast Science Center.
But not without the help of an expert.
“Let me show you,” said E.J. Phillippi.
Phillippi is the program’s first mentor and provides answers to the students’ questions.
He has 52 years of experience working in science, from working for industry leaders to most recently serving as a professor at a naval research lab.
Now, at the age of 78, he’s still doing what he loves.
For instance, helping these students build the biggest amateur rocket in not just Florida, but in the United States, reaching 15,000 feet.
That’s Grabowski’s goal for the club. He’s hoping to achieve it before he graduates high school.
His main job is helping his team of students, like making rocket fuel.
“Yeah, we are mixing chemicals,” Grabowski said.
He says it’s one of the most important steps to ensure the rocket will be a success.
“We are going outside to see how the propulsion or ignition team worked together to ignite some of our fuel,” he said.
The finish line, that the students all hoped for — a goal reached with the help of their mentor, Phillippi, using his decades of science knowledge to help the group make history.
Grabowski will be continuing his career at CU Boulder in Colorado, studying aerospace engineering. The science society’s club is continuing to add more people to its mentorship program to continue passing on the knowledge to the younger generations.