ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (August 29, 2016) - Life can be pretty busy for someone working as an electronics engineer with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC. Add to that an adjunct professorship teaching physics at a local community college and you’ve got someone with very little spare time on their hands. But James R. Evangelos wouldn’t have it any other way.
Evangelos started out as a young graduate with CERDEC in 1991 when it was still located at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He left in 1993 for positions in private industry and with major defense contractors and held a software engineering position with a major defense communications company before turning his attentions back to the federal government. He traces his love of the sciences and engineering to his father who kept a “mad scientist basement.”
“My father was more mechanically inclined,” Evangelos said, adding that he actually did once take a clock apart and put it back together again.
“For me, I love understanding how things work and that’s what physics is all about. It’s the foundation of all engineering disciplines. It explains how our universe works from the small subatomic world to the very large motions of galaxies and black holes.”
Evangelos explained that, related to his work in tactical radio systems and communications engineering, physics is the foundation of propagation characteristics of electromagnetic waves. It serves as the scientific background behind why electrical circuits function. It’s this discovery and understanding of the science behind how the universe functions that he aims to pass on to students.
“It’s a matter of national security that we maintain our edge or other countries will surpass us,” he added. “In a society, you must have manufacturing. To have manufacturing you must have designs and plans. Who does designs and plans? Engineers. I’m right in the trenches with STEM, teaching groups of students right here in Harford County every day.
“We need engineers and scientists if we’re going to have the most advanced military in the world.”
HCC is not Evangelos’ only teaching “gig.” He taught electrical engineering at Cecil Community College and starting in the fall will teach another course at the Community College of Baltimore County, or CCBC.
Evangelos holds a bachelor’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He obtained his master’s degree 20 years later from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. He said the Army paid for his final three courses.
“The Army’s been very good to me,” he said.
Deborah Wrobel, HCC Dean of STEM, said Evangelos is an asset to the college in more ways than one.
“Both in terms of his strong foundation in the sciences and engineering, but also in his ability to work well with our students to advance their understanding of physics,” she said. “Harford Community College and the STEM division truly are fortunate to be able to provide our students access to the STEM expertise of APG. The College and the Proving Ground partner in many ways, and one of the most valuable partnerships we have is the many scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who serve as adjunct faculty.”
Evangelos said teaching is an important part of his government job as well.
On a day-to-day basis, he educates other engineers about software communications architecture, or SCA, which is a foundational architecture used in Software Defined Radios. He said standards exist to create common architecture for all defense contractors, which enables the army to save money, and achieve more capabilities in the long run.
Evangelos is matrixed to the Joint Tactical Networking Center, or JTNC, under the Program Executive Office, Command, Control, Communications Tactical, or PEO C3T. “In our division, we’re the keepers of the standards,” he said.
As far as teaching goes, he said he does it for the sense of accomplishment and because he hopes his enthusiasm for STEM-related subjects is infectious.
“When you have a difficult subject and you see a lightbulb of understanding cross their faces, there’s no substitute for that,” he said. “It’s not always like that, but I tell them your attitude will dictate your performance.”
While many of his students at HCC are students in medical fields, Evangelos says he’d like to “at least expose them to the possibility of engineering careers. Starting at CCBC, this fall, he’ll be teaching calculus-based physics which is geared toward engineers and scientists.
“Teaching is knowledge,” he said, “coupled with enthusiasm and passion. It helps to be engaging, you have to like people, and you have to care. I care about STEM, I care about our Army, and I care about our country, and I want to see more engineers in America.”
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