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Flying High

When The Boeing Company officially introduced the world’s most fuel-efficient commercial airliner late last year, it was only fitting that an NC State alumnus was on hand, celebrating alongside company leaders.

Zachery Jones (’08), who first joined Boeing as an intern in May 2008, said the successes he’s found as a structural design engineer wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the wealth of educational opportunities available to him during his years on NC State’s campus.

“One of the things I liked the most about the aerospace engineering curriculum at NC State was that in addition to its heavy technical course requirements (such as aerodynamics, structures and thermodynamics),” Jones said, “it allowed space for the enrollment of humanities and social sciences courses such as business ethics, technical writing, and environmental politics.

“That was very important to my professional development, because it helped me to become a great engineer, technically, as well as an effective communicator and leader through the social science skills I gained.”

In fact, Jones was first introduced to Boeing through a recruiting session sponsored by the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and again at a College of Engineering career fair. The Manson, N.C. native, worked a series of four aerospace internships on both commercial and military programs as he pursued his NC State degree.

“The university’s latest television commercial stated, ‘This is where higher learning becomes H-I-R-E learning,'” Jones said, “and my NC State experience certainly lived up to that.

“NC State does a great job of fusing strong technical engineering curriculums with professional exposure activities, providing a ‘big picture’ of where the students’ hard academic work can ultimately lead them.”

A love for all things airborne began well before Jones’ arrival at NC State. During junior high school, he was selected to participate in NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA), a program designed to increase the participation and retention of historically underrepresented, minority youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“My mother discovered that I had a rapidly growing interest and talent in science and mathematics,” he said, “and she wanted to provide a program that would allow me to validate future professional goals and let me have fun doing it as a young teenager.”

Jones quickly found his future calling – turbojet sketches and flight tests with custom-built, balsa-wood aircraft fused his creativity with basic aerospace principles, sparking a passion that still remains today. The program also brought him face-to-face with NC State alumnus Stanley Brothers, coordinator of SEMAA’s Aeronautics Education Laboratory, a series of workstations where students conduct experiments and gather data on the principles of flight. Brothers quickly became a personal mentor to the young engineer-in-training.

“I was impressed with Zachery’s abilities and attention to detail, so I ask him to test the rewrite I did on some of the lab exercises that NASA had written,” Brothers said. “Zachery was the only student that successfully performed the experiment on the aeronautics wind tunnel, and I told him he had just done a lab that was equivalent to the work I would expect from a freshman in engineering at NC State.

“He gathered data, analyzed the data, drew conclusions and validated those results – all that from an 8th grader.”

After graduating from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Jones followed in his mentor’s footsteps to become a part of the Wolfpack family. Now, after years of education and training, there’s nothing but blue skies ahead as he and Boeing continue to break new ground in the aerospace industry.

“All people, with acquired knowledge and dedication towards their fields of study, can use their own creative minds to help develop this world into a much better place,” Jones said. “NC State prepares its students for academic and technical leadership in the classroom, but also develops them for corporate and community leadership in their future professions.

“It’s what separates NC State students from those at other universities around the country and that, indeed, is H-I-R-E learning.”