Engineering the Future

Article excerpt

Byline: Eileen O. Daday Contributing writer

As a leading defense contractor, Northrop Grumman engineers typically work in designing top secret precision weapons and advanced solutions in global security.

But one day a month, they let down their guard and welcome a group of high school students into their highly classified Rolling Meadows workplace.

The sessions consist of more than a meet and greet. These students work with their mentors to develop a technical project, bringing it from concept to prototype, much like real engineers when presented with creating a new product.

Training and educating tomorrow's work force is the bottom line.

"This country is falling behind in developing a new generation trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers," said Sandra Evers-Manly, vice president of corporate responsibility and president of Northrop Grumman's Foundation in Los Angeles.

"We need to produce more programs that excite young people," Evers-Manly said.

Northrop Grumman's WORTHY, Worthwhile to Help High School Youth mentoring and scholarship program, aims to do just that.

It specifically targets high school students in need and brings them into the workplace. Once they complete their proof of concept, they present the project to Northrop's senior executives.

The company has worked with students from Palatine, Wheeling and Hoffman Estates high schools, as well as those from Proviso West and Harlem high schools. Company officials hope to add additional schools.

To better focus on year-round learning and opportunity during the summer, selected students may enroll in an enrichment program run in partnership with University of Illinois at Chicago. When they begin college, they may return to Northrop Grumman for paid internships.

Palatine High School student Hannah Maslanka is taking an engineering class at school, and although knows little about the industry, she thought the experience of being immersed in a project -- in a workplace -- sounded like fun.

She has been assigned three mentors -- including a software engineer, mechanical engineer and an accountant -- and together they began brainstorming her project. …