Passion for promoting STEM
prompted engineering career
By Karen McLean
SPEEA Publications Editor
WICHITA – Elisa Acosta might have become a teacher because of her pas- sion for encouraging students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering
and math (STEM).
In aptitude tests for school, Acosta scored high
on math and excelled in calculus and physics
classes in high school. She also had a passion
for getting more people, especially women,
into STEM. “You start to lose them by middle
school,” she said.
Her aunt was an engineer who became a teacher
for similar reasons and advised Acosta to stick
with engineering. “She said she thought it was
more effective to be an engineer – to show them
we can do it.”
That’s one reason why Acosta, a SPEEA member,
pursued a degree in aerospace engineering and
landed a job at Spirit AeroSystems. She started
her career at Spirit in composites as an intern
after successfully participating in the Spirit Global
Design Challenge. For that effort, she joined a
team of students from other countries to design
an airplane. Recently, she transitioned to portfolio
management on a rotation program at Spirit to
provide technical oversight for several initiatives.
She has no regrets about becoming an
engineer instead of a teacher. “I love
STEM. I love numbers. They don’t
always work out, but you can always
figure out why they don’t work out. It’s
much simpler than figuring out people.
It’s just better.”
STEM doesn’t come easy for some.
Acosta admits to having some trouble in
college at Wichita State University, where
she attended on a Wallace scholarship.
“I didn’t know how to study – learning
that was the most difficult part. That and
time management,” she added, because
she was also very involved in extracurricular leadership roles, such as planning
major college events (Shocktoberfest – celebrating school spirit – and Hippodrome
– staging a show to highlight school talent). She also joined the collegiate rowing
team and became one of a small group
chosen for one of the All-American teams
for her division. Tutors and study groups
helped her to succeed.
Paying SPEEA its due
When she graduated in 2015 and went to
work as an engineer at Spirit, she needed
SPEEA’s help with an issue involving
vacation accrual. After getting the infor-
mation she needed,
she signed up as a
member of SPEEA.
“If I’m utilizing the
benefit, to me it’s
worth it. If that is
what it takes to keep
it going, that’s what
I care about.”
Acosta’s passion for
with her family.
Her mother earned
a bachelor’s and
master’s degree in
ing, her father has
a computer science
degree, a brother
works in IT and
another brother and
sister work in aero-
space (one at Spirit
and one at Boeing
in the Puget Sound).
“When I was younger, my brother and sister had
internships at NASA and Lockheed Martin,” she
said. “I thought it was the coolest thing.”
Just before starting at Spirit full time, she
worked at a week-long camp for high school
students interested in engineering. In college, she
mentored middle-school students for Shocker
MINDSTORMS – with an emphasis on hands-
on engineering projects such as building and
programming LEGO robots.
When asked if she would like to be featured
for Engineers Week this year through Aerospace
Industries Association (AIA), she said yes because
she wanted to promote the benefits of a STEM
career and encourage those interested to become
“Some of the best engineers I know aren’t the
ones who had math or engineering come easy to
them. They studied hard and now have a better
understanding of what they work on,” she wrote
for the AIA E-week profile. “Do what you love,
and if it happens to be STEM, welcome to the
best decision of your career.”
Elisa Acosta, a SPEEA member and Wichita engineer, joined her college rowing team at Wichita
State University. She was chosen for one of the All-American teams for her division.
STEM grant deadline
The deadline to apply for a Northwest Council grant related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
(STEM) is Tuesday, Aug. 15. Grants are for
STEM-related outreach projects and events to
help encourage careers in related fields.
A SPEEA member must be a volunteer (coach
or mentor) or parent of a student involved in
the STEM project in the Northwest (including
Spokane, Utah and Oregon) to apply. See details
at www.speea.org. Elisa Acosta, a Wichita SPEEA member, was chosen for a National
Engineer’s Week Workforce profile by Spirit AeroSystems, which was
posted on the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) website.