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The Rocky Mountain section of the American Astronautical Society, together with Lockheed Martin and a Race To The Top grant from the US Department of Education, made it possible for 15 Skyline High School students to learn more about the field of Aerospace Engineering and Student Career Arcs to Professional Engineers (SCAPE). The event took place at Beaver Run Conference Center in Breckenridge, CO, and was part of the 38th annual AAS GN&C conference (http://www.aas-rocky-mountain-section.org/conf_info.htm).
The event kicked off with an address from the keynote speaker, NASA Fellow Neil Dennehy. He described his job and shared the path he took to get there, along with some lessons learned along the way. It was insightful for students to see how one is able to climb the "technical ladder" in a career.
Students then had the opportunity to ask questions of a panel of aerospace engineers that were both early and mid career levels.
The design challenge came next! Skyline students were placed on teams with students from other high schools and asked to collaborate and perform calculations on a spacecraft design. They took lead roles in electrical power system engineering, GN&C/proplusion engineering, structural/mechanical engineering, avionics/software engineering, and systems engineering. Together with their "program manager" (a CU aerospace engineering student), they achieved their best baseline value and presented their work to the STEM panel judges. This was an excellent opportunity for our students to put their strong collaboration skills to use! As Neil Dennehy had said earlier in his keynote address, "The day of the individual inventor is nearly gone."
Students then had the opportunity to meet with representatives from companies that work in the aerospace field and learn more about professional opportunities that are available.
All in all, it was an eye opening day for our students. Despite some longing glances outside at the skiiers and snowboarders coming down the mountain (!), Skyline students came away with a better understanding of this field of engineering, new knowledge and skills to apply to their classes, and a few new friends. We are thankful to the groups that made this event possible for us!