Students test remote aircraft built in Northrop program

Josue Vera

Madeline Stone from reports

Five brightly colored plastic foam planes took to the sky Thursday as eleven students from Los Angeles area high schools showed off their work at Del Aire Park in Hawthorne.

The students were part of Northrop Grumman’s High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) program. Over the course of four months, the students learned the basics of what keeps airplanes in the air – aerodynamics, lift, stability – and then worked with Northrop mentors to design and build their own remote-controlled aircraft.

“Before this, they didn’t know anything about airplanes at all,” said Rudy Loera, integration manager for Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. “We taught them the basics, but they designed the planes.”

The students were grouped together into teams of two or three to build their models. While some of them are interested in pursuing a career in engineering, many joined the program to get first-hand professional experience that will help them in the future.

“It was cool to try something new outside of the school day,” Klaudia Thompson, 16, said. “It’s a good opportunity.”

The HIP students, who attend South Gate, Narbonne, Carson, Leuzinger and Westchester High Schools, spent two hours each day Monday through Thursday at Northrop Grumman. In addition to learning about engineering and manufacturing, participants got first-hand experience in office administration and human relations.

“Professional experience looks good for college,” teammate Joana Valenzuela, 17, said

The team from South Gate High School joined the program after their homeroom teacher convinced them that it would be worthwhile. Their plane, which they christened JK after their first-name initials, was designed by teammate Jonathan Vasquez, 17.

“It wasn’t easy making it,” Thompson said. “I have scars from cutting the Styrofoam.”

Thompson, Valenzuela and Vasquez spent several hours a week building their battery-powered plane, which is made out of Styrofoam and balsa wood. It took them about two months to complete.

The HIP program was started in 1971 to give students from inner-city schools the chance to get real-life work experience. HIP is currently the longest running mentoring partnership program in the nation. The program has had participants from more than 30 high schools in California and New York.

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