Don Gregg moved to LaFayette, GA in November 1993 for a four-year assignment at Roper Corporation. Now, 28 years later, he still hasn’t left. Don is the Senior Director of Engineering for Roper, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GE Appliances.
Growing up Don loved working on bicycles, go carts and cars. His grandfathers were an inspiration in his learning and taught him how to weld, how to use a voltmeter and oscilloscope, and Morse Code. One of his grandfathers worked for NASA. Every summer growing up, Don visited NASA for the family open house tour. In school, Don excelled in science, math and physics and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Today, we’d refer to these core subjects as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
To introduce his passions to the community, in 2014, Don started the Roper STEM Outreach program. It partners local K-12 students, ranging in age from 8 – 17 years old, and teachers with real world experience through access to Roper’s Product Design Engineering Department. This includes touring the Engineering Lab areas and a “hands-on” STEM activity with each team mentored by one of the Engineering Co-ops/Interns. Over 1,700 students, from 15 schools within four surrounding counties, have participated in the Roper STEM Outreach program.
Don took a few minutes to answer questions about why he started the program and its success.
- What interested you in creating this program?
I’m passionate about STEM and love working with kids. We have three kids, five grandkids and I’m Committee Chair of the local Cub Scout Pack and Assistant Scout Master at the local Boy Scout Troop.
- How has this program and the students changed your outlook/impression of your job?
Hosting STEM visits is one of the favorite parts of my job, and I’m grateful that GEA and Roper are such great supporters of the local community. They recognize that advancing STEM education requires collaboration among industry and educators. Our future success depends on a pipeline of highly trained, highly capable employees.
- What are the students most surprised about when they visit?
Most are surprised at all the high-tech equipment and processes we have at the plant.
- Why have you continued to do this program over the years?
I find it energizing and rewarding. Every time I host a group, I think back to my visits to NASA with my grandfather.
- Have any of your students pursued STEM careers? Have you kept in touch with them?
I enjoy when kids come up to me outside work and say “Hi Mr. Don”. Their parents always tell me how much their son or daughter enjoyed his or her field trip. Several have gone on to pursue engineering degrees, and I’m waiting on the day when we go full circle and hire one of them at the plant.
- What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting a program like this at their workplace?
My advice would be to start small, make it fun and stay away from PowerPoints and lectures. One of the phrases I love in Cub Scouts is “Fun with a Purpose”.