Years of work for STEM students have broadened Frank Beafore’s fan club

Frank Beafore is the living embodiment of the idea that the right encouragement at the right age can go a long way.

Though the SelectTech GeoSpatial executive director and engineer was born in a West Virginia “coal camp,” as he put it, Beafore found the right impetus at a young age to pursue a technical education.

It’s an inspiration he tries to pass on to young people today enrolled in Air Camp and STEM programs across the Miami Valley.

“He’s an all-around amazing individual when it comes to trying to pass on information, in terms of electronics and mechanics, to young people especially,” said Mike Kalter, a longtime friend of Beafore’s and a fellow amateur radio enthusiast who nominated him for a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.

Andrew Shepherd, executive director and chief scientist of unmanned aerial systems at Sinclair Community College, knows Beafore well. Beafore builds UAVs at SelectTech’s Springfield Municipal Airport outpost and Scott Sullivan, SelectTech’s president and chief executive, served on an an advisory board for Shepherd.

“He is always so enthusiastic,” Shepherd said of Beafore. “It’s always a highlight when you go out there.”

When Beafore was age seven or eight, “science” was in the very air around him. Military pilots were starting to break the sound barrier. His family got a television, and he began watching science fiction movies.

Then, in October 1957, the Russian satellite Sputnik turned heads around the world, as did Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin, when he became the first human in space in April 1961.

“What a panic we all went into,” Beafore said. “Russia was educating their people in science and math six days a week.”

It was that “panic” that inspired a new emphasis on math and science education in the United States.

After World War II, “We kind of let the pressure off on technical education, if you will,” Beafore said.

Congress crafted the National Defense Education Act, which funded education at all levels, but provided low-interest student loans to college students pursuing a scientific and technical education.

Beafore enrolled in a three-year Navy electronics course. It was that course, he recalled “that really launched me on my career.”

He earned his degree from Fairmont State in West Virginia, started a career in the coal industry and moved to Dow Chemical.

From the start, he was sharing knowledge, teaching basic electronics in night school for two years before he found himself ensnared by amateur radio and electronics. Beafore got his HAM radio license in 1977.

“Frank is very dedicated and cares very much about people,” Kalter said. “He really wants to help where he can, especially young people.”

Beafore moved to Columbus in the mid-1980s, before moving to the Dayton area in the early 1990s, working with Vernay Laboratories in Yellow Springs. Stints at GEM City Engineering and UltraCell followed.

Then Beafore moved to Centerville-based defense and government contractor SelectTech Services. Scott Sullivan, his boss, as part of the local NCAA First Four festivities, pushed hard on encouraging STEM activities, as others did.

When Vince Russo — a former executive director of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — asked him to participate in Air Camp, where Russo served as president, saying “yes” wasn’t hard for Beafore.

It was the quality of the Air Camp program that impressed him. When the students visit, they’re prepared, Beafore noted, already familiar with the concepts of yaw, pitch and roll.

“Looking at the eyes of the kids, just their attention to the whole thing,” Beafore said. “That was one of the turn-ons. And more recently, working with the teachers — they were like a vacuum cleaner absorbing this information.”

“It was the personal feedback from my audience that kept me coming back,” he added.

Beafore’s post at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport is a good perch for that. He expects a total of four companies to establish a presence at the airport for the development of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, sometimes called “flying cars.”

But innovation is nothing new at the airport. Since 2008, when SelectTech GeoSpatial was created, the company has designed, made and tested mission-specific products and services to a variety of commercial customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense and federal government.

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