Lessly Ariza’s teachers knew she was bright when she arrived at Western Hills High School as a freshman, but they say she really found her engineering groove during her senior year, while working as an intern for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth.
“Her confidence in representing herself has really grown,” Tim Burson, a Western Hills engineering science teacher, observed as he watched Ariza work with fellow students on a project. “Three years ago, I would not have seen her up there instructing this class.”
Ariza, now a high school senior, joined about a dozen Lockheed Martin employees visiting her campus Thursday, as part of the company’s broader effort to attract more young engineers to its work force.
The Lockheed Martin group converted the small classroom in Benbrook just outside Fort Worth into a Skunk Works laboratory.
Skunk Works is the company’s behind-the-scenes and often secretive technology program.
The classroom takeover gave the students a taste of what it is like to use technology to solve problems such as building a robot that can repair tiny holes on an air ship conducting a humanitarian relief effort.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to have a role model, to inspire them to be an engineer,” said Ariza, who plans to study electrical and mechanical engineering. She plans to attend North Lake College in Irving for two years, then transfer to either the University of Texas at Arlington or UT-Dallas to complete her degrees.
Lockheed Martin is aggressively recruiting high school and college students for internships that lead to full-time work, in large part through its Project Lead The Way program.
The company aims to hire an additional 1,000 people for engineering and other high-tech jobs during the next year at both its F-35 stealth fighter production plant in Fort Worth, as well as its missile and fire control facility in Grand Prairie, company officials said.
Lockheed Martin also donated a 3D printer to the Western Hills engineering classroom.