Forest Glen students visit Lockheed Martin

Published 7:54 pm Saturday, May 14, 2011

Forest Glen Middle School seventh-grader Matt March navigates from the passenger seat of Lockheed Martin’s JLTV simulator, which mimics driving a real vehicle through the desert.

Math and science careers came to life for Forest Glen Middle School seventh-graders when they visited Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation on Friday.

About 30 students toured the facility and got the chance to experience firsthand some of the work Lockheed employees do and the places math and science careers can take them.

The tour is an end-of-year treat for the students who participate in activities with Lockheed Martin throughout the year in their math class.

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Forest Glen math teach Kris Gillgren, who helped initiate the partnership between the school and the company, said he hopes this will show the students the possibilities of math and science.

“My only goal is that these kids get encouraged and see math used in a practical way,” he said. “Hopefully, it will resonate with some of them.”

Gillgren and Lockheed Martin employees work all year to provide the students with hands-on activities that involved science, technology, engineering and math.

Employees such as engineer Julie Sanchack and computer systems analyst Darrick Gater visit Forest Glen every week or do videoconferences to discuss concepts with the students.

The students raced pinewood cars, tried out a flying simulation and hopped behind the wheel of a concept truck to experience driving a military vehicle in the desert.

In Lockheed Martin’s truck-driving simulator, the students got into an actual concept vehicle the company has developed for the military.

The vehicle is encased in an octagonal room and surrounded by screens that displayed the environment.

The truck simulation was the hands-down favorite among the students.

It wasn’t the first time student Josie Brachett has been in the driver’s seat. Her mother has let her drive the family’s truck in the yard.

Josie seemed like a pro, as she even made sure she properly adjusted the massive side-view mirrors.

“It was like actually driving a real car,” she said. “It reminded me of driving my mom’s truck.”

While groups of five students explored the truck simulator, others tried their luck with flying.

Using joysticks, keyboards and a computer steering wheel, the students experienced what it’s like to pilot boats and helicopters.

Finally, the students participated in a pinewood car race. The students had to build cars with certain requirements and what Lockheed Martin calls “desirements,” which are client specifications.

For example, the cars had to be a certain weight and include a Lego carrying device that contained 50 M&Ms. The exercise included mathematical concepts such aerodynamics and measurements.

Gillgren said he thinks Lockheed Martin is a great local venue for the kids to experience real-world applications of math and science, especially in a time of stretched budgets.

He said if the experience can reach some of the kids and one or two from each class seriously consider engineering as a career, he will feel a sense of accomplishment.