Six Ways We’re Exciting Students about STEM

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Building 5th generation stealth fighter jets. Assembling and launching exploratory Martian spacecraft. Designing the unmanned aerial vehicles of the future. Harvesting energy from the ocean. These are just a few of the exciting projects our Lockheed Martin engineers are working on today.

But to be an engineer on any of these projects requires the right education, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM – and many students in America today are not on the path to receive that education. Here are just a few of the staggering statistics:

  • In 2011, just 32 percent of eighth grade students performed at or above the proficient level in science testing.
  • In 2013, 26 percent of eighth graders scored below the basic proficient level on nation-wide math testing.
  • Out of the entire U.S. high school graduating class of 2013, only 44 percent were prepared for college-level math courses; 36 percent were prepared for the next level science courses.

We all understand the important role STEM plays in the continued advancement of technology. And while we know STEM education is important for the future of the aerospace and technology industries, it’s also critical that we recognize the importance it holds for the American economy overall. The work of scientists and engineers enables us to enjoy the luxuries we’ve grown accustomed to in our everyday lives – from smartphones to the safety and protection provided by our armed forces and the systems and weapons they operate.

That’s why we’re committed to promoting and encouraging students to get involved in STEM initiatives. Here are six of the ways we’re exciting students about STEM:

1. Computer Coding Competition: Each spring, we host a computer programming competition, called Code Quest, at our Fort Worth, Texas plant. Nearly 150 students participate in coding challenges to solve complex coding problems created by our information technology professionals. One student who participated said, “I want to be a software developer, and the coding I’m learning now will hopefully help me achieve my goal.” Allowing students to test their knowledge in a “real-world” environment helps them better understand how their skills could be applied to a career at Lockheed Martin.

2. School Visits: In 2013 alone, our employees reached more than 30,000 K-12 students through our Engineers in the Classroom program. Through this program, employee volunteers visit local schools to give a short presentation and conduct a hands-on activity tailored to student’s skill level. The program is designed to show students how science and math can be fun, and how it can turn into an exciting and rewarding career. The face-to-face interaction is an ideal channel to inspire students to persevere in STEM courses. The touchstone of this school-based initiative is the one-on-one connection between Lockheed Martin engineers and students, teachers and guidance counselors.

3. A Week Devoted to Engineering and Outreach: Each year, National Engineers Week – E-Week for short – is celebrated across the country. At Lockheed Martin, we use this week to not only recognize the amazing and inspiring work our engineers do, but also to get them to inspire the next generation of engineers. Earlier this year, more than 1,600 of our employees dedicated 6,000 hours of their time to reach out to students and get them excited about engineering through tours, activities, presentations and field trips during E-Week.

4. Air Show Booth: The LA County Air Show attracted more than 140,000 visitors this year, and we took advantage of the chance to show students the awesome technologies they could be a part of. We set up interactive touch tables to teach visitors about our products, and employee volunteers inspired conversation with children about our aircraft and answered many of their questions. In addition, various schools and organizations had interactive displays of their robots, 3D printers, science experiments, laser engravers, solar car projects, go karts and other STEM creations. Throughout the two-day airshow, more than 50,000 students visited the tent and participated in STEM activities.

5. Live Engineering Competition: Teachers, college students and many of our employees volunteer each year at the Science Olympiad hands-on science competition. Teams of students practice for months in preparation for a day-long engineering competition that challenges them to build everything from a rubber band helicopter to Rube Goldberg machines, or intentionally over-engineered devices that perform simple tasks. Winning teams are rewarded with special airplane models – and, of course, the joy and pride that comes with winning.

6. Fighter Plane Simulator: What could be cooler than flying the world’s most advanced fighter jet? Not much – and that’s exactly what some lucky students get to do when we bring the traveling F-35 cockpit demonstrator to events across the country. Our engineers set up in intermediate and high schools, where they share a quick presentation with students before letting them jump into the pilot’s seat. “Getting to see the look on students’ faces when they fly the simulator – how fascinated they are by the technology and the thrill of it all – is really inspiring,” Jeff N., a Lockheed Martin engineer and volunteer, said. “I think and hope we’re making a difference and exciting students about engineering careers.”  

Vice President of Aeronautics Technical Operations Dr. Jennifer Byrne put it best when she explained why we’re committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers: “Our customers rely on our engineers to design some of the world’s most advanced technologies, and we recognize that we have a tremendous opportunity to help shape the future for today’s students to become tomorrow’s innovators.” 

May 19, 2014

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