High school seniors learn ups and downs of aircraft design

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — Remotely controlled aircraft designed by high school seniors recently took to the air for the first time as part of a mentoring program sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corp.

The flight demonstrations, conducted during the last week of May, served as the “final exam” of a four-month curriculum in aircraft development to encourage students to consider careers in engineering.

That curriculum is just one part of a partnership between the company and local schools that gives high school seniors the opportunity to obtain “real world” work experience. Since 1971, more than 8,000 students have “graduated” from Northrop Grumman’s High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) after working in a variety of disciplines.

Jeremy Alonso, a Northrop Grumman engineer, and Julia Tang, a senior at Redondo Beach (Calif.) Union High School, make final adjustments on a remotely controlled aircraft before its initial flight. Tang designed and built the aircraft as part of Northrop Grumman's High School Involvement Partnership (HIP), an award-winning mentoring program with local schools. HIP gives high school seniors the opportunity to obtain "real world" work experience in a variety of disciplines at Northrop Grumman locations across the country.

Jeremy Alonso, a Northrop Grumman engineer, and Julia Tang, a senior at Redondo Beach Union High School, make final adjustments on a remotely controlled aircraft before its initial flight. Tang designed and built the aircraft.

A stiff ocean breeze greeted five students on a recent afternoon near Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach campus as they went through final preparation of the airplanes they designed and built using plastic foam, balsa wood and healthy doses of ingenuity.

“Strong winds don’t provide the best environment for stable flight, but these students were well prepared for the challenge,” said Rudy Loera, coordinator of the aircraft design program and integration manager for Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System program. “They learned the principles of what makes aircraft fly – lift, weight, thrust and drag – and put that knowledge to work.”

One by one, the students watched as each aircraft was launched by Jeremy Alonso, a Northrop Grumman engineer who serves as the lead instructor for the aircraft development program. Some of the airplanes didn’t stay aloft on the first try, but they all eventually took off and landed intact.

“The students passed their final exam with flying colors,” Loera said. “And if Northrop Grumman can inspire even one of them to pursue engineering or a similar discipline involving science and math, the mentoring program is well worth it. These young people could be our future employees.”

HIP students come to Northrop Grumman for two hours a day, five days a week, to work side by side with mentors who volunteer their time. HIP introduces students to disciplines such as finance, office administration and manufacturing, as well as engineering.

This year, 194 high school seniors participated in the program at Northrop Grumman sites in California (El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Palmdale, Redondo Beach, San Diego), Florida (Melbourne, St. Augustine) and New York (Bethpage).

In California, participating school districts were Antelope Valley, Centinela Valley, El Segundo, Environmental Charter, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Poway, Redondo Beach, San Dieguito Union, Valley Center-Pauma and Wiseburn. In Florida, students came from the Brevard County and St. Johns County school districts. In New York, the participating districts were Baldwin, Bethpage, Bellmore-Merrick, Commack, Farmingdale and Massapequa.

For more information: NorthropGrumman.com

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