Chats with Change Makers: Jay Abbott

February 1, 2024
A picture of Jay abbot in a field, with a drone flying above him. The Chats with Change Makers logo is above words that read: Introducing students to STEM careers by the people who do them!" Jay's quote is below "We pre-plan the flights so the drone can fly totally autonomously. It's doing its own job!"


On Thursday, December 7, DiscoverE partnered with the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) on Chats with Change Makers. Our student host Kavya got to interview Change Maker Jay Abbott, a field engineer at McCarl’s who uses advanced technology like drones and laser scanners to perform complex projects in the minerals and metals industry.

Chats with Change Makers is designed to showcase real engineers, technologists, and technicians to students from grades 4-8 and make real world connections to the engineering profession, as well as reflect the diversity of the students who participate!

You can watch the full interview below, but here are some of our favorite bits!



Question: So what inspired you to be a field engineer and how did your educational experiences influence that path?

Answer: I started off after high school joining an apprenticeship program, where I served a five year apprenticeship to become a journeyman pipe fitter. Pipe fitters install mechanical systems that engineers design to provide water, heat, energy through pipes and equipment.

Inside my apprenticeship time, I would only go to school for two days a month. So every other week I’d go to school for a full day. And all that other time was spent out in the job learning how to install these systems. I spent about the last 20 years with McCarl’s where I came to work with them as a pipe fitter and then moved into positions like foreman or supervisor.

Once we were once in those positions, the company started to research equipment and technologies like laser scanning and robotic total stations and I had the opportunity to get [my] hands on this cool equipment and just start learning how to use it and where it fit in the construction world.

It took a few years to implement it and get it out in the jobs and get people bought into what the equipment does and how it benefits construction.  So, it’s really been a game changer for our company. We’ve been able to take the equipment and do jobs a lot quicker, more accurate and save our clients a lot of money in the end with utilizing it.


Question: From your experience, the field engineer, what is the most surprising piece of knowledge that you can think of that not many people know of?

Answer: One thing a lot of the kids might not know: some of them I’m sure have drones and might get a drone for Christmas and get excited to fly it and at a fun level. If you’re just using a drone for fun and recreation, you don’t need a license. But the minute that you want to use it for work and that you’re going to actually use it and make money by doing something with the drone, you have to have a license. You have to have an FAA pilot’s license to fly it. So that’s one thing!

Something else with the drone that most people might not know is that we can pre-plan our flights so that when we go out to a job site, the drone can fly totally autonomous. When we launch a drone off, we tell it “Hey, this is the mission that you’re going to go fly.” and basically just stand back and watch and make sure it’s doing it. And at that point, it’s flying its own route, making its turns, taking pictures and everything’s already programmed ahead of time. So it’s doing it itself. It’s doing its own job.

Question: In what ways do you think your job encourages you to be a Change Maker?

Answer: It encourages me to be a Change Maker just by having the will to want to do things better and determination to figure things out. A lot of the equipment that we got, we’re the first ones in the company to try to implement it and make it work. So the determination to make it succeed is really what keeps you moving.


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