Inside Northrop Grumman Laser Systems in Apopka, eight students show off their inventions to eager parents and proud mentors.

  • 2-year internship at Northrop Grumman
  • Students exposed to different engineering disciplines
  • Includes Orange and Seminole schools students

A team of juniors created two robots that collect cups and can navigate through an obstacle without human control, and the team of seniors built a custom train car that moves across a track by repulsive magnetism.

“To be able to plan something like this and to be able to execute it in the amount of time we were allotted was very difficult,” said rising senior Mariama Etienne.

These students are all part of a two-year internship program with Northrop Grumman Laser Systems.

“We started off in our junior year, and we did a lot of training. We also got exposure to different disciplines of engineering,” said Julianne Mazzaro, Apopka High School graduate. “I didn’t even know manufacturing engineering existed or industrial. I hadn’t heard of any of these before the HIP program, so there was a lot of exposure to different engineering disciplines, and new careers, and paths you could take.”

The two-year program is called the High School Involvement Partnership (HIP). It was designed to inspire and help with the pursuit of technical degrees. The students are mentored by Northrop Grumman employees, given training and hands-on experience, and access to educational trips.  

“I wasn’t that fantastic of a public speaker before this, but now I am like, much more confident with everything I do,” said Mazzaro.

The eight students are from Orange County Public Schools and Seminole County Public schools, and are divided up into two groups: four seniors and four juniors. The seniors are awarded scholarships at the completion of the internship.

“It’s really about helping them to explore their capabilities. Helping them to grow, learn their technologies, continue to expand on their skills, right? And then be able to bring that back to the industry,” said David Rigby, Northrop Grumman Laser Systems Site Director. “Part of the program is actually helping them to grow as leaders, take responsibility, we give them a budget, they have to run those budgets, they have to understand what it takes, plan out the activities, present in front of leadership, so they actually have mentors assigned from the company.”

The program also encourages the students to use their skills to better their community.

“If you look at it from the local level, the government level, from the federal, right everybody knows we have to improve our STEM. Everybody know there has to be investment there,” said Rigby.

It’s an investment that’s paid off in full. The four seniors already have plans after high school. Mazzaro will attend the University of Florida, Benjamin Schulz will attend the University of Central Florida, Rayce Main will attend West Pointe and Ethan Cote plans to serve in the Marines.

To learn more about the HIP program, visit the Northrup Grumman website.