Giving Spotlight

I joined Bell because of the helicopters. They help people accomplish incredible things,” adds Pearse. “All the things that we work on here go out in the world. They help save lives and accomplish amazing things.

Terps at Bell Pay it Forward

While Bell Helicopter is an industry leader in vertical lift technology, they have come to depend on Maryland for supplying them with some of the latest in next generation engineers. Currently, twenty two alumni reside at Bell as engineers, engineering managers, and directors, and through their efforts, Maryland and Bell have been fostering strong ties and relationships to educate, support, and recruit students with a passion for engineering and interest in working at a company that values promoting STEM in the communities they live and work and the customers they serve.

For years, Bell, a Textron Company, has actively engaged with and supported Maryland students through class sponsorships, inclusion in their competitive summer boot camp, internship opportunities, and most recently, the Bell Helicopter Engineers on a Mission Scholarship Fund.

Through the coordination efforts of Charlie Kilmain (B.S. ’85), the Terps at Bell established the Bell Helicopter Engineers on a Mission Scholarship Fund to fuel future engineers in their academic success, and give back to the school that helped set them up for a successful career in engineering.

For those like Mike Ryan (B.S. ’85), it is important to support and foster future engineers and support the types of experiences that made it possible for him to enjoy an almost thirty-year career at Bell. “Giving to the scholarship goes towards trying to give back,” explained Ryan, a Manager in Aircraft Structures Design and Liaison. “And to create an opportunity for someone else to get a similar experience that we had.”

“Maryland’s a great school,” said alumnus and scholarship supporter Justin Pearse (B.S. ’10, M.S. ’12). “I hold the community [there] in high regard and the school close to my heart. We have great professors, and great research.” Joining Bell in 2012, Pearse currently works as an engineer on V-22 Aircraft Systems. He credits the experiences and skills he cultivated during his six years at Maryland with helping him succeed at Bell. “[At Bell] it’s always like drinking from a fire hose, but what that means is that you are expected to learn a lot in a quick amount of time,” he explained. “My research experience at Maryland helped prepare me for this.”   

Kilmain, who serves on Mechanical Engineering’s Visiting Committee, has been very active in building and strengthening the ties between Bell Terps and Maryland. “Charlie keeps us informed about what’s going on at Maryland from a collaborative perspective,” said Pearse. “He really encourages us to contribute and participate.”

Beyond scholarships, Bell cultivates a successful pipeline for getting young engineers involved with the company and runs both an annual competitive boot camp and internship program. Since it began in 2011, Bell has selected at least one Maryland student every year to participate in its Bell Helicopter Engineering Boot Camp at their global headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Bell selects only 20 students each year from more than 260 applicants.

The week-long intensive design and engineering experience challenges students to solve real-world problems such as a helicopter design modification or improvement. Attendees tour facilities and have open access to Bell’s engineering and manufacturing talent, including tech fellows, specialists, and leadership personnel. They learn about engineering processes, new product development, six sigma skills, and trade studies.

“This is one of the first opportunities for students to get experience with Bell, and may lead to an internship, and potentially a job opportunity at Bell,” explained Ryan. “It’s a real world engineering challenge, and they have access to all of the talent at the company—from engineers to the customer—during the design challenge.”

Bell regularly attends the Clark School of Engineering and department job fairs. Ryan currently works on talent development at Bell and really looks forward to his trips to campus. “Seeing the students on campus, they have a lot of energy,” Ryan said. “When you look at these individuals, you realize they are the future of Bell Helicopter and who knows what they will come up with! It can be really exciting.”

Ryan makes an effort to accommodate students’ busy schedules, and spends his visits meeting as many students as possible all over campus. “We have had really good success recruiting from Maryland,” he added. “Maryland does a really good job in preparing their engineers, and we have been able to hire people who are shaping the future at Bell.”

Through alumni and leadership engagement, like that at Bell, the department has the opportunity to expand students’ experiences beyond the classroom, establish collaborations across industry, academia, and government to build a stronger engineering foundation for both students’ careers and the organizations they work for, fostering passion, collaboration, and commitment to the future of engineering.   

“I joined Bell because of the helicopters. They help people accomplish incredible things,” adds Pearse. “All the things that we work on here go out in the world. They help save lives and accomplish amazing things.”