Shane Jackson ’18 is currently in his junior year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where he is working towards both his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering. In addition to his studies, he serves as a contact tracer for COVID-19 at Public Consulting Group (PCG) and NYS Department of Health. Shane also works for Lens and Lights (LNL), a production company that runs events such as seminars and arena-sized robotics competitions, concerts, conferences, and expos. Upon graduating from WPI, Shane hopes to enter the workforce as a mechanical engineer specializing in fluid dynamics and material research within the aerospace industry.
What inspired you to become a contact tracer for New York State?
I had an internship lined up for last summer that fell through due to the pandemic. It was at that moment when an interest sparked in me to work as a contact tracer so that I could assist others in a greater manner during the peak of the pandemic. After taking part in two weeks’ worth of training in the COVID-19 virus and the policies and procedures that the Department of Health employs in order to prevent the spread of the virus, my appreciation for this job and what I would be doing over the course of my summer and beyond grew. I gained a newfound knowledge and passion for my work and I truly enjoy reaching out to contacts and positive cases alike and assisting them in any way I can.
Anyone who knew me at Kellenberg was aware of how busy I was. I juggled academics and activities both inside and out of Kellenberg. I feel as though Kellenberg prepared me for the real world in that I was able to learn how to balance my lifestyle both in and out of class. I was very active in ETV, Auditorium Services, Photography Club, etc. Those clubs kept me very involved and active while I was still working hard in class. The academic aspect of the Kellenberg educational philosophy was well-suited to prepare me for college. WPI is a very rigorous school where the “WPI Plan” (as it is dubbed) consists of 4-7 week terms. In each term, students take 3 or 4 classes that consist of engineering projects, design labs, and lecture components. In comparison to other colleges where the average credits per semester are 15, at WPI every student does a bare minimum of 18 credits. Kellenberg’s comprehensive exams certainly prepared me for any test that I have taken, as I learned how to manage my time efficiently while studying and testing. That, combined with the time management skills I learned, works well in maintaining my studies and my commitment to my work as a contact tracer.
What is a typical day like for you as a full-time student and a part-time contact tracer?
I prefer to have my classes early in the morning, so I generally wake up, exercise, attend all of my classes for the day, and then I get to work in contact tracing. As a contact tracer, I am generally assigned a list of contacts to reach out to and call. On any given day I take care of around 30-55 contacts. We contact anyone who was near those who tested positive for COVID as well as those who are traveling into NY from a state with an elevated number of COVID-19 cases. While most calls generally go well, we do have the occasional uncooperative contact and we need to diffuse situations. A large portion of our job is exercising proper judgment in order to prioritize the safety of the contact as well as those who the contacts’ actions might affect as well. I was recently moved to the school specialist team where our main job is to ensure that every student (pre-k to collegiate level) in our system is being contacted and well taken care of. After my day at work, I then meet up with my project teams for my various classes to work on each individual class project. While I’m not on campus at the present moment (so most of the projects are lacking in the manufacturing portion, which is my favorite part) we are still handling CAD designs amongst many other things to ensure that the items we make will be functional.
Do you have any favorite teachers/club moderators/coaches from your time at Kellenberg Memorial?
Honestly, I have way too many teachers at Kellenberg that enjoyed my time with. While I can’t name them all, I really appreciated everything that every one of them did for me. Without positive role models like all of the faculty and staff at Kellenberg, I’m certain I wouldn’t be where I am today. I need to give a very special thanks to Mr. Harris (who I admittedly spent the most time with throughout my tenure at Kellenberg), as he sparked my interest in videography, photography, lighting, and sound. I still utilize all of the skills I learned with him as my hobby in school. At WPI, we have a production company called Lens and Lights (LNL) where we run events as small as little seminars to as large as arena-sized robotics events, concerts, conferences, and expos. I was able to use all of the skills Mr. Harris taught me and applied them in a greater manner at WPI with LNL. Most people don’t realize the huge amount of work, time, money, design, engineering, and training it takes to set up and rig (hang truss with heavy lighting fixtures and speakers from building beams) events so that audiences can enjoy things like Post Malone concerts and even the Super Bowl. I was able to gain a greater appreciation for all that goes into making those events possible. Having planned and organized the production services for large concerts, robotics competitions, and even conferences at well-known places like the Boston Marriott, I have a deeper understanding of what happens and how many months of planning goes into making events that many people (especially now) take for granted. My expertise in this field has taken me on jobs with various larger production companies to work on tasks such as corporate-sponsored events, and even some specialty shows in the Boston area, and I have Mr. Harris to thank for that!