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Inspiring Future Engineers: AEHF Launch Sparks STEM Dreams for Nine Project Lead the Way Students

Project Lead the Way

The third Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite launched on Wednesday, Sept. 18, aboard an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The AEHF system provides vastly improved highly secure, protected communications for the executive branch of government and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms.

During the launch week, Lockheed Martin teamed up with partner organization Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to inspire future generations of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leaders. The nine students are part of their high school’s PLTW engineering program. PLTW is the nation’s leading provider of STEM education programs for middle and high schools

The students took part in a three-day launch event sponsored by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. It began with a school assembly for approximately 70 of their fellow classmates and ended with the group witnessing the AEHF-3 launch.

Pre-Launch Activities Educate Students on AEHF and STEM Careers

At the AEHF-3 launch assembly on Monday, Sept. 16, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company engineers shared advice with the high school students on pursuing degrees and careers in STEM-related fields.

Panel participant Nick Denning attended the assembly and launch as part of the Lockheed Martin Launch Experience Award Program (LEAP). LEAP participants are high-potential, early career employees chosen by their senior level management to participate in the program and attend launches.

“STEM is important to ensure a strong foundation in math and science, which can be used in real-world applications,” said Denning, mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “Investment in your education now will pay off immensely later on – Take advantage of all opportunities and experiences that you have available to you.”

During the assembly, students and teachers also heard from AEHF program leaders and engineers who discussed the history and background of the mission. The nine students were then announced and presented an AEHF-3 launch coin. On the second day of the launch event, the students and other VIP guests, including Bertram, attended a pre-launch briefing and photo op at the launch pad.

AEHF Launch Countdown Begins

When the launch window opened on Wednesday, the students had front seat views to see the successful launch of the AEHF-3 protected communication satellite, a STEM experience they are sure to never forget.

“This was, to say the least, an extraordinary opportunity for the students at Merritt Island High School,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, PLTW president and CEO. “Not only did they witness history today, but more importantly, they experienced how their studies in science, technology, engineering, and math come together in the ‘real world’ of aerospace engineering.”

Posted September 23, 2013


“This experience was truly once in a lifetime. I feel lucky to have been selected to participate in this event. It was amazing to see how much work goes into a launch. Although I have seen many rockets go up this will always be my favorite."

Alyssa A., 12th grade, future civil engineer

"The launch was absolutely incredible. I couldn't believe how close we were. I will never forget this experience. With me saying 'I got to see a night launch' on my resume, it may give me a better chance at getting a job. And meeting all of the Lockheed Martin engineers, they may remember me when I'm applying for a job there."

Nathan S., 11th grade, future aerospace engineer

“My experience at the launch was incredible and just gives me more of a push to continue with into the engineering field. It was a great experience being that close to the rocket and having teams that helped with this launch talk to us. This launch and other Lockheed Martin and Project Lead the Way STEM activities will impact my future/education...”

Ally C., 10th grade, future aerospace engineer

“The activities this week have totally changed the way I look at everything space. Getting a chance to see how all of it works fascinated me. It was absolutely amazing the amount of team work that goes into the launch. I will never look at a rocket the same way again.”

Jacob M., 9th grade, future aerospace engineer