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ACES camp shows girls no careers are just for men

I was a seventh-grader at Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School in Tucson when I was pulled out of class for a meeting. At first I thought I was in trouble because seventh-graders don’t normally get pulled out of class unless they’ve done something wrong.

It turns out I did something right. I was invited to attend the MISS (Math, Information Systems and Science) Adventures camp – now called Applied Career Exploration in STEM (ACES) – because I had expressed interests in math and science.

This program, sponsored by Raytheon Missile Systems, changed my life.

The camp’s goal is to show girls there are no careers just for men, that if we are willing to work hard and focus on education, we can achieve our goals and dreams. From then on, all I wanted to do is become a mechanical engineer because I have always been a hands-on learner and enjoyed math and science – and, if a guy can do it, why can’t I?

Throughout my childhood, Raytheon has always been a part of my learning.

ACES is just one component of Raytheon’s MathMovesU® program. I also was involved with Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) at Desert View High School, which Raytheon helps sponsor. The academic support I received helped me earn a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona, and I celebrate National Engineers Week this week as someone proud to be in this profession.

Education has always been an important factor in my life. Being a first-generation American, both of my parents only had high school diplomas. My father earned his in the United States while my mother earned hers in Vietnam. My parents constantly pushed my younger brother and me to do well in school so that we could provide for ourselves and families in the future.

Though I was initially interested in mechanical engineering because of math and science, I later thought about my degree as a stepping stone to eventually make a difference in just one person’s life. My father was infected by poliomyelitis when he was younger, so now he can’t go anywhere without a walking crutch. I wasn’t able to help my father when he was younger, but with the knowledge and skills I have learned along the way, I can try to design something to make a difference in his or someone else’s life.

I make a difference right now, every day, at Raytheon. We ensure that the warfighter is prepared and that the products we make do what they are intended to do, first time, every time. This is especially important to me as my husband is a United States Air Force pilot.

As a manufacturing engineer in radio frequency/electronics integration systems, I work to support production on the factory floor for multiple missile programs. I make and modify work instructions for a part of a missile’s assembly. It’s like when you buy a table online and it arrives at your door with assembly instructions. We constantly look for new, innovative ways to improve the efficiency and ergonomics for the operators who work on these builds.

I find it important to give back as previous Raytheon employees have done for me. I volunteer with Imagine Your STEM Future, a girls mentoring program at Desert View. I work with other volunteers and the students on various programs like an egg drop project, where the girls have a limited amount of “money” to create a fixture that will prevent the egg from breaking during a fall.

I think programs like these are important because it opens up more doors and opportunities for the girls. Girls can do anything they put their minds to do.

Large companies can have a profound impact on young people. During National Engineers Week, I encourage my colleagues and friends to give back to their community, just like Raytheon employees gave back to me when I was a student. I am so glad they pulled me out of class!

Raytheon employs nearly 200 workers at its Albuquerque facility. The company’s work includes telemetry and range support systems, high power microwave, pulsed power, and particle beam technologies and energetics and materials development for the Department of Defense.


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