Mosier man gives back at annual Roboflight Academy

A first-year student gives Julian Rogers the thumbs up for helping out.

Submitted photo
A first-year student gives Julian Rogers the thumbs up for helping out.

At age 22, Julian Rogers of Mosier appreciates flying and inspiring young people. Rogers was the first student to graduate with a 4.0 cumulative GPA in every subject for the entire four years at Portland State in Mechanical Engineering. He also achieved a 4.0 GPA in all courses in the Honors College at PSU.

He was back for his sixth year at Insitu’s RoboFlight Academy in July, but this time as a staff member.

Rogers describes RoboFlight Academy as “an innovative program to help develop the next generation of STEM students that may eventually go on to work in the high-tech industry in the Gorge,” via a press release from Oregon Connections Academy.

“Nurturing local kids and introducing them to the industry is the goal of the program,” he said.

Rogers was a high school student at ORCA, the statewide online public school, for his first year at the RoboFlight Academy. After that initial year, he held the title of mentor for the next four years — now, he is the longest running participant at RoboFlight Academy and it’s a special year for Rogers as he is now on the Insitu staff helping to run the event.

In addition, Rogers also started working as a mechanical engineer in Mechanical Design and Flight Science at Insitu a few weeks ago. During the RoboFlight Academy he presented his thesis, which analyses conventional wing design versus 3D-printed wing design.

“I feel like I’m part of the fabric of RoboFlight,” said Rogers. “I really enjoy helping make things fly and a good part of time I’m either repairing a drone, checking software for the mechanisms, and generally making sure the kids have fun. You only learn if it’s fun and interesting. I love aviation and Insitu manufactures drones. What’s not to love?”

He graduated from PSU Suma Cum Laude, the highest cumulative GPA level recognized by the institution. He also received an Outstanding Student award from the university’s Mechanical Engineering College. Rogers admits his father promised a special set of wheels if he managed to achieve straight As, but it was also a personal goal.

“A 4.0 GPA is a level of excellence I always strive for,” noted Rogers. “It took a lot of studying and actually attending classes and doing all the homework assignments.”

“It’s so gratifying to see all of Julian’s accomplishments in college and jumping into a great career,” said Marci Cammann, manager of counseling services at Oregon Connections Academy. “The fact that he’s giving back what he’s learned to motivate high school students is even more heartwarming. Julian’s story is one of many we’ve heard from our ORCA graduates that demonstrate how much young people can achieve given the right tools and support to fit their individual learning needs.”

Rogers’ mother, Roberta Rogers, said Oregon Connections Academy prepared her son for college, “as he had mastered learning on his own and to be self-disciplined. He became far more curious and inquisitive as he could explore more, not being always stuck in a traditional classroom situation.” Julian Rogers added, “ORCA gave me the start on the path to a STEM career, it allowed me to learn at my own pace and develop a work ethic that helps me in everything I do.”

At Oregon Connections Academy, Rogers also had good grades and scored in the top percentile on his SAT exams, which earned him a “Commended Student Award.” That track record helped him receive several scholarships to cover all of his costs for college tuition and fees. Those included the PSU Presidential Scholarship, The Honors Laurels Scholarship at PSU, the PSU Viking Scholarship, and the E. Wayne Kay National SME Engineering Scholarship.

Roberta Rogers said her son was fortunate to get an internship at Insitu a few years ago because it’s a very competitive process. “There were 700 applicants nationwide for 10 summer internship positions during Julian’s first summer internship. They also allowed him to work one day a week during his junior and senior years at college. This allowed him to apply the theory he was learning at college and see how it is used in real life. It really opened his eyes to see what mechanical engineers do on a daily basis.”

“Mechanical engineering is all I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” said Julian Rogers. “I love taking things apart to see how they work. That gives me inspiration not only to understand how things work but also how to make things better.”

Rogers does other activities outside of college and RoboFlight Academy. He skis Mount Hood in the winter and does windsurfing and wind foiling in the Columbia River near Hood River during the summer.

Rogers’ interest in flying came partly from his father, Kean, who had background in aviation from when he lived in Australia. All of NASA’s space flights from the beginning up to the very last Space Shuttle also became a passion for Rogers. “He built his own flight simulator at home and used NASA simulators to follow along with Space Shuttle launches and landings,” said Roberta Rogers. “The simulations were within a few seconds of the actual events. Julian did his simulations as the actual events were occurring. It was fun to see both happening at the same time.”

Insitu recently mentioned Rogers’ work on their RoboFlight Academy blog: “Insitu RoboFlight Academy: A hands-on STEM experience pushing the envelope in the Gorge.”

So what does the future hold for Rogers? “After college I wanted to work in the aviation industry, explore the future of 3D printing and its applications in this field. I also want to get my pilot’s license and take to the skies!”

He feels getting involved with programs like RoboFlight Academy are a great way for him to share what he’s been given so he can encourage children to learn more about science and technology. “Make STEM fun and relevant, then all the hard work and dedication is all worthwhile,” said Rogers. “3D printing is the future, it’s the new space age and will change the world in incredible ways.”

In his new role with Insitu, Rogers is excited about the potential real-world applications across the globe and closer to home in the Gorge. “Possibilities are endless, but autonomous drones can do the complex tasks at a fraction of the cost compared with current systems. Everything from crop monitoring for better food yields, pipeline inspection to prevent leaks that may harm the environment, monitoring of fires and providing real time feedback to help fire fighters battle the blazes, surveillance in military situations that keep troops out of harm’s way and many other uses.”

Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) is a tuition-free, statewide online charter school that serves students in grades K–12. The school is authorized by the Santiam Canyon School District. All Oregon Connections Academy students participate in the national Connections Academy program that combines resources from leading publishers with cutting-edge yet easy-to-use technology and hands-on materials.

Enrollment is now underway. For additional information, visit or call 1-800-82-6010.

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