In 1973, if you’d asked young ‘DJ Jazzy Jay’, AKA Julian Lewis, what his future career would be, he would have told you that he was going to be a rapper. Fifty years ago, Lewis’ future in music and entertainment looked bright. But one encounter with his 7th grade band teacher Mr. Roughgarden set him on an entirely different path. 

“In a casual conversation, I found out that Mr. Roughgarden had a Cessna 150 airplane. I asked, how can I get a ride on that airplane?” Julian recalls. “He told me, well, just bring a note from your parents and we’ll see what we can do. Well I did, after writing and signing that note, I got a ride. I was hooked on aerospace and aviation.” 

Julian Lewis worked as an aerospace engineer for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company for 34 years, before he retired and became a teacher. After his tenure at Lockheed Martin, Lewis joined the EnCorps STEM Teachers Program® to chart a path to teaching. He applied his degree in Aeronautical Science, his practical experience, industry knowledge and his Career Technical Education (CTE) credentials to teach Aerospace Engineering at the STEM Academy of Hollywood high school.

As a retired STEM professional with over three decades of expertise, Lewis was able to bring a number of unique assets to his teaching, and offer his students a 360-degree view and hands-on experience connected to real world STEM experience from his work that they might not have had in an ordinary classroom. He was able to teach the engineering design process to his students which is the core engineering principal engineers use every day in the real world!

“I used my STEM professional experience in the classroom by making the curriculum project based,” Lewis says. “I had the kids learning to take something from concept to reality through the process of design, test and build. The end result of the project did not determine success. It was the process of visualizing a concept, designing, integrating, building, re-integrating, and looking at the performance and being able to demonstrate and talk about the process.” 

Lewis was even able to use his industry experience to get resources for the classroom. “A 3D printer, a wind tunnel, drones, RC airplanes,” he lists. “We built structures like airfoils to prove the concept of coefficient of lift/drag. Every project was hands-on”. Lewis also had the good fortune to put his industry connections to use in sourcing guest speakers from the aerospace engineering industry, “So that students could actually hear other voices outside of mine, and better understand what the aerospace industry is all about”. 

Now an EnCorps Board Member, Lewis leverages his personal experience transitioning from STEM professional to STEM teacher, as he guides EnCorps in fulfilling its mission to educate and inspire students who lack access to high-quality education in STEM subjects.

“When students receive that early exposure to engineering, and they see that they can do something beyond their current environment — that’s the path forward in moving the needle to position them for opportunities in the future.”

Lewis can boast that his impact as an educator is long-lasting with several of his students from his very first graduating class currently working in STEM professions. 

Meet Julian Lewis, EnCorps Alumni and Board Member: