by Lt. Col Thomas Lenz, Peggy Hodge and James Spellman, Jr.
Space and Missile Systems Center Engineering Directorate and Public Affairs Office
10/16/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -- Twenty
members from the Space and Missile Systems Center volunteered their
time and support for an outreach program Oct. 10 at the University of
Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering. The "Lasers 4
Ladies" event focused on demonstrating optics and photonics to over 500
middle and high school female students from across the greater Los
As part of the International Year of Light 2015, the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Photonics Society International
established the "Introduce a Girl to Photonics Week" to support their
Women in Photonics initiative.
Events around the globe were organized to show female students how
photonics impacts the world around them and inspire interest in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics-related careers.
"The betterment of our society is dependent on innovation; education is
limitless and knows no bound," said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, SMC
commander and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space. "Our
priorities in STEM come straight from the president's 'Educate to
Innovate' campaign to motivate and inspire students in STEM subjects."
"The ultimate goal of the L4L event is to increase the number of
students pursuing engineering degrees. The best ways to motivate young
people are to provide role models and to demonstrate why engineering is
impacting society," explained USC Associate Professor Andrea Armani,
event organizer and Fluor Early Career Chair in Engineering in the Mork
Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.
"By hosting a tent at the event which explained GPS, engineers from SMC
accomplished both goals. Additionally, SMC personnel helped in many
other supporting roles which are equally critical to the success of a
large event, such as registration and event set-up and tear-down," said
Demonstrations included activities on virtual reality, lasers, solar
cells and optical fiber. SMC's Global Positioning System Directorate
provided a satellite constellation exhibit demonstrating
"triangulation." The SMC History Office provided graphics and scale
models of satellites and launch vehicles highlighting the importance of
SMC's mission to the local community and encouraging students to
consider STEM-related fields of study.
Amanda Cordes, from SMC's Advanced Systems and Development Directorate
and Air Force Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation, or
SMART, scholarship program student, led the SMC team of volunteers.
"One of the most rewarding parts of the event for me was the opportunity
to share my love of science with young female students interested in
science and engineering. Part of the event included the students
answering science and engineering questions on a bingo card," said
"Several times I was able to make a direct correlation between optics
and everyday use or applications," Cordes explained. "For instance, one
question asked, 'How are optics used in cell phones?' At that point, I
would ask the student to take a selfie or picture in front of the SMC
booth and then I would ask, 'Now do you know how the camera focuses?
Optics! Which you use every day. The students really liked this."
"I was proud to be part of the Viterbi School of Engineering "Lasers 4
Ladies" day event at USC and represent SMC and the Los Angeles Armed
Forces Communications and Electronics Association chapter," said Andrea
Loper, SMC program manager for acquisition and contract support.
"It was amazing to see the students walk up to our SMC booth wanting to
know more about the GPS satellite constellation and understand the
exhibit demonstrating triangulation, how GPS satellites help users
pinpoint their geographic position," said Loper. "I really enjoyed
answering their questions. Their curiosity and interest in learning
from the event is a testament to the importance of STEM outreach