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Dec 19, 2013 9:53 AM by Ryan Haarer

Raytheon inspires future generations of scientists and engineers

TUCSON- When fifth grader Taylor Palmer joined the virtual reality club she expected a textbook lesson plan.

"Like we would all be doing the same thing. And then when we got here she said we are just going to let you do whatever you want," said Palmer.

That freedom inspires students at Ocotillo Ridge Elementary as they think up and create 3-d models of whatever they want.

"(I like) the chance to express my thoughts, to show people what I am going to be when I grow up," said fifth grader Logan Stewart.

Logan now wants to be a programmer or an engineer, exactly the result Raytheon wants out of the program they've created.

"These are our future scientists and engineers. We want to help them develop the skill set. We want to help educators understand what we need in the industry so that they can be developing these students in a way that will work well when they come to the workforce here," said Bill Patterson, Chief Architect at Raytheon.

The software called blender, an industry application, is free to schools. Mrs. Murphy applied for a grant giving the class a low cost virtual reality machine so they can see their designs pop.

"They are just rocking it. Just the light that comes into their eyes is fantastic and amazing when they see their creation come to life," said Murphy.

And they get to see how the pros do it, literally surfing through their very own designs in Raytheon's high tech, 3-D, virtual reality screen. To the students it's just fun but, they are learning a ton about what Raytheon employees do every day

"Advanced visualization is a very important part of our design process and evaluation. So this is important for them to learn this skill set," said Patterson.

This is not a quiet class. They're encouraged to talk and collaborate.

"I sometimes ask Logan to help me figure something out, and then I figure out, if someone asks me I help them and it just goes around the class," said Palmer.

In fact, it's how most of them improve, just scratching the surface of what's possible in the fifth grade.

This program is part of a bigger plan by Raytheon. Since 2005 they've spent $100 million to instill more science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the classroom.

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