|INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEMS|
The BEST in the business
BSS' high school mentor program helps students
BY MARCY WOODHULL AND ANN TIDWELL
What do you call a program where high school juniors pair with Boeing mentors to complete meaningful 15-week projects that bring lasting benefits to all involved? At Boeing Satellite Systems, it's called the Boeing El Segundo High School Team, and it's been operating since 1997.
The partnership's annual cycle begins in December, with Boeing Satellite Systems' El Segundo, Calif., High School Day. About 40 prospective BEST participants and their teachers visit the company and learn about the value of space systems in society, the rudiments of designing such systems, and the basics of the BEST program. In January, BEST founder and sponsor Steve Archer, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites Program Director, asks for mentor volunteers. They devise projects that offer real value to the enterprise.
The students commit to five hours a week outside the classroom from February to June, receive school credit for their project, and present their work at a BEST graduation ceremony attended by school officials, Boeing Satellite Systems leaders, students, their parents and mentors. Larry Jackson, Micah Shamash and Judy Shank of Boeing Satellite Systems, and teacher Tim Harrison of ESHS coordinate the program.
Several factors converged to create the partnership, recalls Archer. His Ultra-high Frequency Follow-On program team wanted to encourage teambuilding through community service. Archer's son started at ESHS. At the same time, the school decided to offer a corporate mentorship program. Archer launched BEST with five students sponsored by the Ultra-high Frequency Follow-On program.
As BEST grew, project diversity burgeoned. This year's projects ranged from a thermal conduction analysis program to application-specific integrated circuit design and array electronics manufacturing. John Bakalyar helped design Spaceway downlink antenna engineering model test sets, saving 36 minutes on testing each of the 1,500 antenna elements.
Archer thanked Boeing Satellite Systems and Integrated Defense Systems management for their staunch support of this important community outreach program. "Boeing's terrific community involvement made our acquisition by Boeing a bonus, boosting the program and the company's commitment to institutionalize BEST." He also praised the mentors and coordinators for donating many hours of their own time.
Archer noted, "In 2002 we almost doubled the number of students that we had last year. Fifty amazingly innovative, computer-literate and articulate apprentices have now graduated from this program."
For students, the most important program outcome is insight into the "real world." El Segundo Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty credited Archer for his dedication, year in and year out, to the BEST program. "This is a wonderful business partnership."
Students echo the sentiment.
"I learned what itís like to work in a technical position for a large company, and I was able to apply what Iíve learned in school to the real world," said Kamille Kemp, whose project was to create an interactive mass properties analysis software manual.
"BEST students gain an appreciation of industry at a key time in their lives, and the company receives substantial, long-lasting value from their projects," concluded Archer. "What better way to give back to the community in which we earn our livelihood?"
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