From Feb. 19-25, 2023, engineering and STEM career fields are celebrated across America during National Engineers Week, an observance recognized by the National Society of Professional Engineers. In recognition of this year's celebration, we asked RAVN Aerospace Training Officer and Deputy Program Manager Marco "Ivan" Parzych, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, to share some insight into how engineering has contributed to his career in aviation. Before joining RAVN Aerospace, Ivan earned his pilot wings in the U.S. Air Force in 1997 and flew multiple models of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and all three service variants of the F-35 Lightning II. He also led a joint Operational Test and Evaluation team charged with providing early influence on the design and testing of the F-35.
What prompted you to pursue an engineering degree?
"When I was in middle school and high school, science and math were always my favorite classes and the ones in which I did the best. I also had two older brothers who had pursued engineering degrees before I went to college and were successful in finding interesting and well-paying jobs after graduation. Also, with a goal of becoming an Air Force pilot, I knew that having an engineering degree could help me understand my job better down the road if I got a chance to fly. All of those factors led me to pursue an engineering degree when I got into college."
How do you think your electrical engineering degree has shaped your experience in aviation?
"My engineering degree provided a good baseline for understanding how systems work. Aeronautical engineering classes helped me to understand basic aerodynamics of aircraft. Mechanical engineering classes helped with understanding how the systems of aircraft work together to make a plane effective and safe for the pilot to fly. Electrical engineering classes also were beneficial in helping me to understand how mission systems on combat aircraft (such as radars, electronic attack pods, and datalink networks) work. Understanding how the plane and its systems work can be very helpful when it comes to making the most out of those systems during flight to ensure the mission is successful."
Why would you recommend engineering or other STEM-based careers to youth?
"I would recommend that students pursue engineering for two reasons. First, it’s a great way to do something in your life that intrigues interests and challenges those who enjoy learning science and math in school. Not everyone likes these classes in school but for those who do, pursuing engineering can be a way to find an occupation that is interesting and fulfilling. Second, there will always be a need and demand for students with an engineering background. There will always be companies looking to do things in new and different ways, which is right in line with an engineering mindset. "
What does engineering mean to you?
"To me, engineering means using science and math principles to understand how things work and using that comprehension to create new technologies or make improvements to existing ones in order for them to operate more effectively and efficiently. Overall, engineering encompasses just about everything we use in our everyday lives – the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the phones we talk on, the roads we drive on, the equipment we use for our jobs. We are surrounded by engineering marvels each and every day."