Classrooms in Space: Advanced Manufacturing Co-op

space-employee-3d-printing

Jeff Pollmiller (left) and Greg Lopez (right) in a moment of intense concentration as they work with one of Lockheed Martin's 3-D printing machines.

Greg Lopez starts his day early, heading to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company’s campus in Waterton Canyon at 6 a.m. and settling in to support spacecraft assembly, test, and launch operations (ATLO). But his day doesn’t stop there. After a full day working on ATLO test engineering and building an automated lessons-learned database, Greg still has courses to attend and homework to complete.

That’s because the classroom isn’t the only place where learning takes place. In fact, for Greg and five other Metropolitan State University of Denver students, they have two classrooms – one with desks and the other with spacecraft. These students, studying varying fields of engineering at MSU Denver, are among the first to participate in a cooperative (co-op) education program partnership between Lockheed Martin and the university.

“Every day when I come to Lockheed Martin, I get to work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known,” noted Greg, an electrical engineering student at MSU Denver. “It’s been great to get out of the classroom and see what it’s like to apply what I’ve learned in school and get a taste of what the engineering field is really like.”

space-employee-3d-printing-2

Greg Lopez (left) and Jeff Pollmiller (right) stand with a 3-D-printed squirrel. Although a squirrel isn’t a spacecraft, Jeff is working on testing the ability to 3-D-print on a 3-D-printed object, and ensuring that printing from any angle yields identical results.

From mechanical manufacturing and 3-D printing to working in testing environments and creating circuit designs, these co-op students are getting hands-on experience and learning critical technical skills required for the future of advanced manufacturing.

Jeff Pollmiller, another co-op participant who will graduate with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering technology from MSU Denver this December, is working on a study about the effects of additive manufacturing on titanium powder and trying to figure out how many times it can be used before losing its manufacturing properties. He also helps build parts for proving concepts in tooling and design on programs such as Orion and GPS.

“It’s amazing that I’m testing new printing technology for real programs and helping find engineering solutions to meet company needs,” Jeff said. “By linking our classroom work with this on-the-job experience, it’s a great way for us as students to understand how engineering feats and theories actually become a reality.”

This paired approach to partnering with local universities ensures classroom concepts and manufacturing methods are in lock step and helps keep the aerospace talent pipeline thriving. Take 3-D printing, for instance, which can be integrated into collegiate curriculum to give students the skills to lead this cutting-edge technology as they enter the workforce.

“Establishing co-op programs with universities such as Metro State University of Denver provides the opportunity for students to apply their academic knowledge into real-world applications and the ability for hiring managers to attract talented engineering students to launch their careers at Lockheed Martin,” said Neil Cabreza, senior manager of ATLO test engineering and a co-op program manager. “Recruiting motivated engineers is key to our long-term success.”

In addition to the co-op education partnership, Lockheed Martin consulted with MSU Denver to help shape the curriculum for a new major – advanced manufacturing sciences – and to guide the layout for the new Aerospace and Engineering Sciences building. This new facility, which broke ground in early October, will serve as an on-campus test bed where students put their freshly learned production skills to work.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company also participates in similar co-op programs with nearby universities at many of our facilities including the University of Denver, the University of Colorado, Drexel University and the University of Alabama, among others.