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High Schoolers' Dreams Take Flight in Intern Program

A course that gives high school students a taste of what a career in aeronautics engineering looks like recently had its final exam--and participants passed with "flying colors." The test actually consisted of flight demonstrations of planes built of plastic foam and balsa wood by the students during their participation in a partnership program sponsored by defense giant Northrop Grumman.

  Northrop Grumman Engineer Jeremy Alonso launches a remotely controlled aircraft as Redondo Beach Union High School student Julia Tang watches
Northrop Grumman Engineer Jeremy Alonso launches a remotely controlled aircraft as Redondo Beach Union High School student Julia Tang watches.
 

During the program, 194 students in California, Florida, and New York came to the company's local operations for two hours a day, five days a week, to work alongside employees who acted as mentors in engineering as well as finance, office administration, and manufacturing. They spend time using office productivity applications, working with technical documents, researching solutions, testing vendor products, giving presentations, and addressing security issues.

Since 1971, when the program started, 8,000 students have participated, according to the company.

In Redondo Beach, CA, Northrop Grumman Engineer Jeremy Alonso launched each student plane into a breezy sky. Alonso serves as the lead instructor for the company's aircraft development program.

"Strong winds don't provide the best environment for stable flight, but these students were well prepared for the challenge," said Rudy Loera, integration manager for Northrop Grumman's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System program. "They learned the principles of what makes aircraft fly — lift, weight, thrust and drag — and put that knowledge to work." Eventually, he added, "These young people could be our future employees."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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