Raytheon supports the whiz kids and makers of the future by being a major part of Frisco Education Foundation’s Mindbender Academy, providing manpower and financial support of $7,000 to the program this year.
Raytheon has been a part of the science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEaM) camp for Frisco ISD middle school students since the camp began in 2008.
“Raytheon employee volunteers work directly with students and give of their personal time to inspire them to explore STEM fields and guide them in hands-on engineering projects that have direct scientific applications in fields such as physics,” said Allison Miller, director of Frisco Education Foundation.
Melanie Smith, who works in community relations for Raytheon and volunteers at the camp, says taking part in Mindbender and other STEM programs is important to inspire today’s students to be better prepared for future careers.
“About 60 percent of Raytheon’s workforce is engineers,” she said. “Working with students at STEM camps like Mindbender helps us prepare the talent pipeline for the future.”
Raytheon’s investment in FISD middle school students who attend Mindbender may produce engineers of tomorrow.
“We are always looking for the best and the brightest,” Smith said.
Thirty Raytheon volunteers spent a full day working with two sessions of 400 campers to help students test Bernoulli's principle, which states that an increase in the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or a decrease in the fluid's potential energy.
Students used a set of variable options and a central processing unit (CPU) fan to shoot ping pong balls at a target. When combined with a fierce competition between teams, learning how air can lift an object made for a fun day for students. The project was specifically designed for Mindbender by Raytheon and Sci-Tech Discovery Center.
Students also had a chance to meet Jason Ritacco, self-professed nerd and now Raytheon manufacturing technology center manager.
Ritacco kicked off the morning by telling students that when he was growing up, counselors and teachers didn’t know what to do with him. No one talked to him about college or STEM fields as a career.
“I was a tinkerer,” he said, admitting that he nearly blew up his parents’ garage more than once. “STEM wasn’t even a word when I was in college.”
He attended community college and went on to a state university where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. He worked at an electronics store while going to college. It was his personal explorations and his tinkering that led him to where he is today, working at Raytheon.
Ritacco urged students to challenge themselves with as many math classes as possible and talk to counselors about different careers.
“Don’t focus only on one discipline,” he warned. “Know about software development, mechanical engineering, be a multi-disciplined person.”
A student asked Ritacco if he could go back to his early years, would he change anything. Ritacco talked about his earliest plan to be a technical theatre major before he changed to business.
“I was pretty quiet then, so no. My business degree really helped me develop my people skills,” he said. “I love what I do. You have to choose your own path.”
Raytheon and its many volunteers who support Mindbender are helping Frisco ISD students find that path.
For more information on FEF, Mindbender and how you can support this great FEF program, visit www.friscoeducationfoundation.org.