||WMS alumnus Gabe MacKinney
For years, WMS alum Gabe MacKinney told himself he didn't like math. After all, he spent six years at Cab Calloway School of the Arts studying theater and music - he thought he was destined to be a writer or find his niche in the arts.
But when he reflects on his WMS days, he realizes he was gravitating toward math even as a young 9-12 student.
"I remember the first conversation about math that I actually enjoyed: whether zero was an even number or not," he said. "That should have been more of a hint that math wasn't so bad."
Now a junior at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Gabe is thriving as an aerospace engineering major.
"I have always been interested in planes and rockets," he said. "Then I found out in high school I actually liked math - I was just telling myself I didn't like math."
While Gabe had a chance to explore various arts programs - including theater, stage combat and strings - throughout his middle and high school years at Cab Calloway, he was already feeling a strong draw toward math and science by the start of high school. He was midway through his eighth-grade year when a member of his younger brother's Odyssey of the Mind team (also at Cab) dropped out, and he was recruited to handle the engineering portions of their exercises. He stuck with the team through high school, and began concocting increasingly elaborate plans involving duct tape and PVC pipe to tackle various Odyssey of the Mind challenges.
"All of a sudden, I was looking up math to figure out how to do stuff and build stuff," Gabe said. "I was really excited by this stuff. I thought I'd give this engineering thing a shot, and here I am now."
By his junior year in high school, Gabe knew he wanted to pursue engineering. Two years later, he started as a freshman in Purdue's aerospace engineering program, and quickly decided to pursue a co-op position with Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah, Ga.
After passing his initial classes - Gabe said Purdue's aerospace program is notoriously rigorous and many new aerospace engineering students switch to other majors after their first semester or year - he decided to attend a career fair in search of a summer internship. He met with Gulfstream, which offered him an interview and subsequently invited him to take a co-op position.
While he hadn't been seeking a co-op position, after careful counsel from both his parents and his adviser at Purdue, he decided to give a try. Now in his second of four rotations at Gulfstream,
Gabe is focused on fluid dynamics (often referred to as aerodynamics).
"It's how fluid moves under various conditions," Gabe explained. "Air flowing over a wing and why that generates lift, when you're talking about aerospace - what shape wing is best for planes and conditions."
As he looks back, in addition to recognizing the early signs he liked math, he also recalls his love of science as a WMS student.
"My engagement in science classes was nurtured at WMS," he said. "The five Great Lessons - I really loved those. I have a strong memory of sitting down and watching demonstrations as they told the story."
From his introduction to theater to writing science fiction stories to sketching in the woods, Gabe said much of what has shaped his years since elementary school is rooted in his WMS experience.
"I liked the exploratory style of learning - I liked when I could go figure stuff out by myself," he said. "A lot things that I do, interests and hobbies can be traced back to WMS."