Several dozen engineers from Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton came to campus this week to participate in a novel mentoring event (think “speed dating”) that included several dozen Front Range high school students and their parents as well as about 20 CU-Boulder undergraduates.
The Lockheed Martin engineers, primarily CU-Boulder alumni, rotated through different question-and-answer sessions with small groups of students to discuss careers, challenges and the experience of working at the forefront of the aerospace engineering field. One mentor was Steve Jolly, who holds bachelor’s and doctoral aerospace engineering sciences degrees from CU-Boulder and who has led spacecraft design and development for several NASA missions, including Mars exploration projects.
"We are starting to see a brain drain of space engineers, and we expect that about half will be retiring within the next 10 years," said Jolly. "Since the challenges we face today are much more difficult than when I started my career, we need very talented students, and CU-Boulder has been at the forefront of our recruiting efforts."
Jolly said the pipeline of future engineers for the nation should start early.
“I think we need to find a way to reach out to middle school students and early high school students and help direct them toward high-tech careers,” he said, adding that the industry welcomes multitalented engineers, including artists and musicians.
Sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the mentoring event was held in conjunction with National Engineering Week, created in part to inspire the next generation of engineers. The high school students at the CU-Boulder event, who came from Front Range schools between Fort Collins and Castle Rock, have already been accepted to CU-Boulder.
Emily Howard, a senior from Horizon High School in Thornton who attended the mentoring session, said she has been interested in engineering since she was young.
"I know CU has an awesome engineering school," said Howard. "And I know students can get real-world experience here. I plan to take full advantage of that."
CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences program is ranked 10th nationally both in undergraduate and graduate assessments by U.S. News and World Report in 2016 for all public and private universities in the nation. Three other CU-Boulder engineering disciplines are ranked in the top 25 in the nation.
Another mentoring event attendee was Kari Hadjis, the mother of Rock Canyon High School senior Riley Hadjis, one of the students who came to the event.
"As a parent, I’m very excited for my child," said Kari Hadjis, who already has a daughter enrolled in CU-Boulder’s chemical and biological engineering department. "I think engineering is a great field to be in, and CU has shown us that it has a lot of opportunities for those students."
CU-Boulder sophomore Mack Tang, a mechanical engineering major from Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, said the event was a great fit since Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are among workplaces that interest him.
"When I heard about this event, I thought I would come and talk to some of the Lockheed Martin engineers to get more information and some networking experience," said Tang, who said he likely will go to graduate school before entering the work force.
CU-Boulder’s Engineering Week wraps up Friday with several energy talks at noon by the Energy Club at the business school, a noon "egg drop" contest from the Engineering Office Tower, and a 1 p.m. rocket launch on the business school field. For more information visit this CU-Boulder Engineering Days website.