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Northrop Grumman engineer visits Relay Elementary to build interest in profession

Given the task of building a rubber band-powered car by a Northrop Grumman engineer, Relay Elementary School fourth-graders got a feel for the profession June 1.

Using only CDs, adhesive, rulers, scissors and washers, the 75 students took on roles as design, mechanical and test engineers at Friday afternoon event designed to promote interest in the profession.

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Maurio Phoenix, a civil engineer with Northrop Grumman, began the presentation by explaining what engineers do and the variety of jobs they have.

Phoenix then gave the students the project and assigned them their roles.

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By the end of 20 minutes of construction, many of the teams of students had cars that would roll a couple of feet.

"It's hard because you have to do all the steps," Sydney Spencer said, as she took a break from assembling and testing her team's vehicle.

Arbutus resident Lisa Whittington, who works in human resources information systems at Northrop Grumman, nominated Relay Elementary School for one of the presentations the defense company gives through its DiscoverE program.

The company has done this outreach with elementary, middle and high schools since 1990, visiting more than 2,100 schools, according to a release from the company.

Since March, Northrop Grumman has sent engineers to 116 schools, primarily in Maryland, using the demonstrations to build interest in the profession.

"They get to see what a real engineer would do," said Whittington, whose daughter, Christina Lawson, is a kindergartener at Relay Elementary. "It helps them with problem solving."

Last year, the Northrop Grumman presentation went to students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grades and Whittington said her daughter now "tinkers" with things at home, even wanting to help fix a broken vacuum.

A rocket launch scheduled at the school the day of the DiscoverE program was canceled due to an impending storm.

Though they couldn't blast off, the students spirits weren't dampened.

Fatima Parveen examined her team's car closely and admitted the task came with some pressure.

"You got to do a lot of measuring and you might mess up," she said.

The stress is not enough to scare her off from pursuing a career as an engineer who builds cars, she said.

"It's fun and you can build a lot of stuff by yourself and with a team," Fatima said. "You can do a lot of stuff with engineering."

Students such as Emma Angell said they liked that Phoenix explained engineers with different backgrounds are highly valued because they provide new perspectives.

"I have learned that they really like having girls as engineers," Emma said. "I think that's cool because girls are awesome."

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