Engineering a stellar future in the stratosphere

Posted in: Society
By Kaye Collier
Aug 15, 2013 - 9:04:48 AM

CHRIS WOMACKThe Cub Scout troop filed into the Air Force hangar. Their scoutmaster, Andy Womack, was in the Air Force and thought the boys would enjoy learning a little about the nuts-and-bolts of aeronautics, albeit on a very elemental level.
Being grade school boys, the scouts were duly impressed. However, for one particular scout, this was more than a field trip—it was a watershed experience that would continue to influence him for years to come.
Within the hangar was a helicopter that had crashed and was there to be restored. The armor had been removed, and the wiring and inner workings were exposed.
The boy’s eyes must have been as big as silver dollars as he visually scoured the innards of what had once been (and would be again) a fine piece of aircraft.
That young man was the scoutmaster’s son, Chris.
“I wanted to mess with those things,” a grown-up Chris Womack recalled during an interview last week.
A recent graduate of Bray-Doyle High School, where he was co-valedictorian for the Class of 2013, Chris is even more fascinated with the engineering aspects of aeronautics than he was the day he was introduced to them. Much more.
As a sophomore, he applied to the Pre-Engineering Academy at Red River Technology Center, where he would later learn to apply the laws and principles of physics in the construction of toothpick bridges and boats.
The academy’s two-year curriculum for high school juniors and seniors not only fanned Chris’ already-smoldering passion for engineering—it also laid a solid foundation upon which he could build during his college years.
His interest in the coursework was exceeded only by his level of performance.
In a field of select students, Chris was named Engineering Design Student of the Year as a junior, then Engineering Design and Development Student of the Year as a senior.
“I had so much fun with it,” he attested.
He attended the academy in the mornings, then returned to Bray-Doyle for afternoon classes. He indicated that his favorite courses in high school were history and the engineering classes.
Chris developed a number of close friendships with other academy students, with whom he occasionally spent time during the summer.
“Some of the best friends I’ve ever had are from the vo-tech,” he said.
His academy instructor, David Shaw, and his wife took Chris to dinner on his 18th birthday, and the former student’s summer employment consisted of helping the Shaw family with odd jobs.
For someone with Chris’ interests and talents, involvement in the six-week robotics program at RRTC was inevitable. For the past two years, he has helped design and construct a robot capable of playing a game. He was a programmer and one of two drivers for the robotics team.
Immediate future
This fall, Chris will continue his education at the University of Oklahoma, where he will major in aerospace engineering with hopes of someday designing space shuttles or other aircraft for NASA.
“I’m really excited to start it all,” he said.
The young brainiac from Bray is surprisingly, and admittedly, awkward and accident-prone. His only baseball season for the Donkeys was cut short this past year when he sprained both ankles sliding into third base during a scrimmage. Yes, that’s right. Before the season actually started.
“I’m really clumsy. There have been many times I’ve been taken to the hospital,” he confessed.
Chris noted that his dad has jokingly warned him that when he comes home from college for visits and stumbles over something, he will be reminded that walking is NOT rocket science.
Chris has garnered a number of scholarships to assist with college expenses. He has received scholarship offers totaling more than $38,000 and will be able to use $26,100 of that amount toward his education, $13,500 provided by OU itself. Two of the scholarships were co-sponsored by the university and the Thunder NBA team, and one was presented at a Thunder game.
Lest you arrive at the erroneous conclusion that Chris Womack is a nerd with a Think Geek Catalog in one pocket and a graphing calculator in the other, be it known that the young engineer-to-be is much more balanced than that.
He played right guard and middle linebacker for the Donkeys throughout high school and was chosen Linebacker of the Year for District A4 his senior year.
“I love it (football) so much. I miss it horribly,” he said.
He competed in power-lifting in the 242-pound class and qualified for state all four years of high school, placing sixth in his division as a senior.
Chris explained that competitive power-lifting is a balancing act in itself. The athlete must stay within his weight range but at the same time, increase his strength through muscle-building.
His extracurricular activities at Bray included membership in the on-campus Life Transformation Group and the school’s chapter of FCCLA. Through the latter, he received a certificate for community service and an honor cord to wear at graduation.
Chris is a gentleman and a scholar—a gentleman whose respectful, unassuming manner puts others at ease, and a scholar who has unfailingly excelled at academics.
His GPA (4.0) and ACT score (29) earned him a place in the prestigious Oklahoma Academic Scholars program. He was also inducted into both the National and Oklahoma Honor Societies, and he was named Bray-Doyle’s scholar-athlete all four years.
Another of his honors was recognition as Bray-Doyle’s Masonic Student of Today.
Through his participation in the pre-engineering academy, Chris received the Duncan Noon Lions Club’s Student of the Year Scholarship valued at $1,000.
Furthermore, he was one of only 100 incoming freshmen out of thousands of applicants to be selected as a President’s Community Scholar at OU—an honor that came with a $500 scholarship.
Chris at home
What are the odds that as soon as he was born, little Christopher Dale Womack was reaching for the doctor’s stethoscope in an effort to see how the thing worked?
The time was July 31, 1995, and the place was Duncan. His parents, Andy and Tina, would later welcome Andrew, now 15, and Emily, 9, to the family.
His father joined the Air Force when Chris was 2 and was subsequently assigned to Colorado Springs, and later to Great Falls, Montana.
“I respected my dad a lot for being in the Air Force,” Chris noted, adding that he has the utmost regard for all of America’s military personnel.
At the conclusion of his military service, Andy decided to come home to Marlow. He is currently attending Cameron full-time, pursuing a degree in creative writing; and Tina is a graphics designer for eCommerce, an online company.
Chris started fourth grade in Marlow, then transferred to Bray the following year.
As with most of today’s teenagers, one of his more enjoyable pastimes is texting.
“I do it enough that it could possibly be a job,” he quipped. He also likes reading, especially works of fiction, and fishing. He enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings take the ice, and OU and the Philadelphia Eagles command the gridiron.
Aware that his spiritual well-being is important, too, he is active in the Stephens County Worship Center.
Chris may trip over his own feet at times; but when it comes to knowing what he wants in life and how to go after it, he has those same feet planted solidly on the ground and headed confidently in the right direction.