Aerospace Engineer

My name is Shawn Bailey. I live in Falcon, Colorado which is about 10 miles
from Colorado Springs, CO. My house is in a residential airpark, which means
my house has its own hangar and taxiway to Meadowlake Airport (00V).  My
husband and I have 2 children, Patrick who is 8 and Kira who is 5. We have 2
cats named Clarsah and Fianna.

I grew up in Colorado Springs, CO which is home to the United States Air
Force Academy. The USAF Thunderbirds fly at the cadet graduation every
year and are in town each year a few days before the graduation to practice
their routines. Their practice area was over my house! I would see them
flying low and beautiful every year and became convinced that I wanted
design jets like those! I had always done well in school, and my parents
(neither of whom are engineers) encouraged me to be anything I wanted to
be. I always knew women could have any job they wanted!

When I was a kid, I liked to build balsa wood airplane models for fun.  I
bought a balsa wood glider kit one day and found that its directions were
confusing on which way the parts went together. I bought an identical kit
and built the gliders both ways. This became my 10th grade science project
when I compared flight times for the two gliders to decide which building
style was best. I never knew what an engineer did until I was told that this IS
the type of work an aerospace engineer did. I never had any doubt that that
is what I would become!

My husband got his pilot’s license in 1999 and I wanted to learn too so we
could fly together. I started my lessons in 2001 and finished in 2002, just 3
months before my first child was born. I have done all my flying in a Piper
Cherokee 160. I haven’t flown much since my kids were born, but it sure is
easy to get the flying bug living where I do, since there are airplanes,
helicopters and ultralights flying over my house everyday!  My husband and I
do not own a production-made airplane yet, but my husband is building a kit
plane, a Vans Aircraft RV-7A, which is a 2 place single engine aerobatic
capable airplane. We would love to have a 4 place airplane that can fit the
whole family eventually.

My full time job is as an aerospace engineer. I have worked on several
different projects in the last 14 years which include working on the
Tomahawk cruise missile, the F-22 fighter, and the missile defense system. I
have done ground testing (where we tested missile parts before they were
put together as a whole missile), flight testing for the F-22 environmental
control system (the heating and cooling for the airplane computers, and the
pilot), and have used missile simulations to see how well systems will work
before the government spends money building them for real.

My job is fun because I get to learn lots of interesting details about my
projects and work with a team to make whatever the project is work better. I
get to use computers all the time and I get to use math on a daily basis. The
best part of my job is when myself and my team get projects completed
correctly and on time. I also like interviewing new college graduates for my
team. Meeting these smart young people remind how fun it was when I was
just entering the workforce, and had every engineering opportunity available
and open to me.

People are generally surprised that I am a mom to 2 children AND I am an
aerospace engineer. People I work with are usually surprised that I have a
pilot’s license and are VERY interested in asking me questions about how
they can learn to fly too.

What role do skills in math, science, engineering and technology play
in supporting your job?
As an engineer, I use math, engineering and
technology on a daily basis.  These types of skills are as familiar to me as
speaking and breathing. I got my undergraduate degree in
aerospace/mechanical engineering which prepared me to think like an
engineer. Once I started working, I learned everything I needed to know for
my particular job while "on the job".

What activities do you suggest for young children or young adults to
prepare them for a career like yours?
There are two main things a person
must do in order to have a job as an aerospace engineer. First you need a
minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering.  To get this you
must do well in school. You need to be in the most advanced science and
math classes beginning in middle school in order to learn enough to study
engineering in college.

Secondly, if you would like to have a career in our nation’s defense or
military, or any other job in general aviation and commercial aviation, you
must keep your life clean. Stay away from drugs, drinking, crime or any other
illegal activities that could get you into trouble.  

Otherwise, try to learn as much as possible about what you would like to do.
Read books, build models, go to airshows, and go to aviation and space
museums. If you are lucky you will meet an aerospace engineer who will tell
you about their career.  Never be afraid to approach people and ask
questions. Adults love it when young people are interested in careers and
their futures.

My future plans are to keep working, raising my family, and making time for
flying and inspiring as many kids as I can.
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Email Shawn!
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Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless