The Thrill of Design and Creation

Opening the Door to STEM for Santa Barbara’s Girls

At Lockheed Martin, we’re exploring space and the depths of the sea, developing new technologies for clean energy and cleaner water, designing exoskeletons and next-generation ships — things you may have only seen in the movies. Here in Santa Barbara, we develop and build sophisticated, state-of-the-art, electro-optical infrared imaging systems that are going into the world’s most advanced aircraft and satellites.

It’s all about engineering a better tomorrow, for us and our children. And to get there, both as a company and as a nation, we need the best innovators. We can’t afford to leave anyone behind. That’s why encouraging girls to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, industries is so important.

How to convince girls to pursue a STEM education? Inspire them to explore how and why things work. Show them that an engineering career gives them the opportunity to make a better tomorrow, to design things no one has seen before.

A big part of engineering is critical thinking, and this is something that can start at an early age. When I was young, my parents created mind teasers for my brothers and me. We played games and tic-tac-toe in the air — no paper and pencils allowed! We were having so much fun I didn’t realize I was learning problem-solving skills that I draw on in my career today.

As an engineer, nothing compares to the excitement of seeing your designs, your creations given form and used to protect, serve, and explore. It’s never too early to experience that thrill of design and creation. Some of my colleagues got their start building models and creating inventions out of regular household items. Their parents took them to the store to pick out fun experiments to try out in their home kitchen. We were fortunate to have parents who were actively involved in fostering our interest in science and technology.

At Lockheed Martin in Santa Barbara, we want to pass that legacy on, both to our own children and those in our communities. We’re doing that by partnering with local schools and STEM organizations to share our experiences and encourage kids to pursue STEM careers.

In terms of encouraging girls, we are partnering with Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara to create positive STEM experiences, to cultivate that critical thinking and interest in experimentation. In a recent class, our volunteers discussed buoyancy with the students, the importance of mass to volume, and how it applies to Archimedes’ Principle. The girls applied this principle by designing foil boats and adding pennies as cargo to experiment with mass and volume. Their eyes really lit up to see their designs float.

Activities like this are all about giving girls the experience and confidence to say, “I can do this.” By opening the door to STEM for Santa Barbara’s girls, we are investing in the next generation of leaders who will have the ability to change our world.

On Thursday, October 15, Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara will celebrate women and girls in STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art, and math — at its annual Celebration Luncheon at the Bacara Resort & Spa, featuring honored speaker Lynda Weinman (see for details). By inspiring girls to believe in their own ability to achieve success, we can all help cultivate the female leaders of tomorrow.

Karen Achey is a program manager with Lockheed Martin Santa Barbara Focalplane. She started her career as a molecular geneticist at the University of Florida before joining Lockheed Martin as a manufacturing engineer.


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