Life of a Brave: Unsung Hero, Engineering Pathway Coordinator and Science Department Chair Mr. Walt Wippler
by Matthew Parsons
Mr. Walt Wippler, a native of Southern California, grew up in the city of Downey and attended public schools throughout his childhood until his high school years, where he attended St. John Bosco for all four years.
Bosco was Mr. Wippler’s first experience attending a private school, so it took a little bit of time for him to adjust. At first, he struggled with having friends because of the new environment that he was in. Eventually, he found his way, and he now describes Bosco as a place where everyone has a place.
“I didn’t know anybody. Some guys who lived in Downey also realized that I went to the same parish. Back in those days, people would ride their bikes to school, so they picked me up and we’d all ride there together. It was a welcoming place back then. It was a place where everybody had a spot where they could fit in and do something that they were interested in,” said Mr. Wippler.
Mr. Wippler wasn’t the greatest when it came to academics, but even so he took a strong liking to both math and science. In addition, Mr. Wippler also pursued athletics and music throughout high school, as he was in both band and soccer. However, he eventually put soccer to the side for his interest in music, something that he began to regret as time went on.
“I played soccer for a while, and then when I got involved heavily with music, there was a choice to be made. That’s one thing that I wish I would have actually tried to find a way of doing both because my senior year they won the league,” said Mr. Wippler.
After graduating from Bosco, Mr. Wippler attended California State University, Long Beach, and got a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Achieving this took longer than expected, as Mr. Wippler had to work while attending classes, and he was unable to pursue a master’s degree.
“I worked during college. I paid my own tuition. I worked as a plumber, so I went to school in the evenings, and then I got hired to work here. To get a Master of Engineering, you basically can’t,” said Mr. Wippler.
Before coming to Bosco, Mr. Wippler worked as an engineer. He worked as a draftsman for three summers, and the company he worked for did many government contracts. He worked on many different projects.
“I worked with a unit where we were working on the helmet for the space shuttle. I was pretty low level, so I wasn’t designing stuff, but it was pretty big. I found that the office environment was not really for me,” said Mr. Wippler.
After having his degree for a year, Mr. Wippler decided to come back to Bosco in the year of 1992. He was interested in the idea of teaching and sent out his application to several other institutions, but nothing really came of it. However, through a connection at Bosco, he later learned that they were looking for someone to fill a position in the science department. He decided to take up the position.
Mr. Wippler as a high school student never really imagined himself as a teacher, but funnily enough, his old soccer coach and English teacher predicted that he would end up as a teacher.
Bosco changed a lot since Mr. Wippler’s time as a student in many ways, such as uniforms or the campus experience.
“We didn’t have a uniform, but we had a dress code. You had to wear a collared shirt. You couldn’t wear shorts or jeans. We also now have the pathways and a very expanded curriculum, and on top of that, sports are better all-around. We also didn’t have air conditioning back then, so that’s a really big thing,” said Mr. Wippler.
Now, Mr. Wippler is the head of the Science Department, runs the Engineering pathway, teaches AP Physics and is the lead mentor of Tribe Robotics.
Tribe Robotics is an international organization that St. John Bosco is a part of. Bosco’s team number is 4123 because that is their registration number. It’s an extremely large organization that spans across many countries.
The Engineering pathway’s goal is to create self-sufficient students who are ready for their possible future careers in engineering, and in a sense training them in a way that college may not. The culmination of the Engineering students’ fourth year is a capstone class, where they develop a design for a certain amount of time and they present to a panel, similar to the show “Shark Tank”.
COVID-19 hit the school extremely hard, which greatly affected the Engineering pathway. Before the pandemic, the pathway used to have internships with a company called Pelican. Furthermore, precautions and online school also made it extremely hard to teach engineering, as Mr. Wippler has a very hands-on class. Through all of this, however, Mr. Wippler pushed through without breaking stride.
“Mr. Wippler is a great and understanding teacher. He really emphasizes the collaborative aspect of engineering,” said senior Gabriel Castro.
Mr. Wippler takes a lot of pride in how far Bosco has come. To him, the Science Department has an extremely strong group of teachers. He’s been at Bosco longer than almost anyone else and has witnessed all of its changes in real time, up close.