STEM School Highlands Ranch has Multiple Links to the Mars Rover

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Perseverance landed on the surface of Mars on Thursday. STEM School Highlands Ranch was part of this historic event in many ways. The link between Lockheed Martin and STEM gets stronger every school year through our significant industry partnerships.

STEM senior Erin Fast was part of an inaugural group of high schoolers offered a paid internship at Lockheed Martin two years ago. Prior to that summer, Lockheed Martin only hosted college students. It was an experiment to see what high school students could offer. Erin along with several other STEM School Highlands Ranch students selected proved themselves through significant contributions.

Erin was assigned to the heat shield on the Mars lander. She came up with a novel solution that she presented to senior engineers. I was an invited guest to the presentation. I was so impressed that I asked Erin to repeat the non-confidential part of her presentation to our community at a STEM board meeting. Parents in the audience had many questions but the first question was, “How old are you?” Erin’s command of the material and her presentation skills felt like a young engineer instead of a rising high school junior. If Erin continues at Lockheed Martin, she will earn her 10-year service there at the age of 25.

Our collaboration with Lockheed Martin only grows strong from year to year. Five highly competitive internships were offered to high school students for the summer of 2021, and of those five, three are from STEM School Highlands Ranch.

During last year’s 2020 graduation, Sue Linch, the Janus Mechanical Lead and Deep Space Exploration Leader at Lockheed Martin, shared with our community that the Mars Rover would be named Perseverance and how our relationship with Lockheed Martin would continue to grow. She has been a champion of expanding the internship programs, helping to lobby the expansion of opportunities to middle school students.

As our students and staff watched the landing of the Mars Rover on Thursday, they were privy to another special moment that included the inclusion of Kendrick Castillo’s name on the Rover. You can find more about that here.

Seeing former STEM students having an impact on the future inspires our students to continue to dream and innovate. We’re especially fortunate to have a significant number of our STEM parents work at Lockheed Martin or at many of the smaller aerospace companies that supported the $2.7 billion launch of Perseverance.

Our instructional model of Problem-Based Learning allows our students and staff to innovate creative solutions to real-world problems, to reimagine how things are created and implemented, and to never stop finding a pathway to a better future.

Mr. Spock said it best~ Live Long and Prosper

Have a great weekend,

P.J. Eucker PhD
Executive Director

P.S. Check out part one of a two-part series on how Problem-Based Learning is designed by our second-grade teachers.

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