COLORADO SPRINGS. When thinking about the aerospace industry, Colorado probably isn’t the first state to come to mind. But the state’s growing aerospace community — made up of more than 500 companies and suppliers — now ranks it as the second-largest space economy in the nation. During the last two weeks of June, Stephen Sabish, a recent St. Mary’s High School graduate, had the opportunity to explore Colorado’s space industry as an intern with the Colorado Space Business Roundtable (CSBR).
“We were at different locations each day and were able to see how these companies contribute to the aerospace industry through both tours and hands-on activities,” Sabish said. “The internship was great for seeing principles we’ve learned in school in action and for networking with some pretty important people in the industry.”
Sabish is the first St. Mary’s student to participate in CSBR’s Colorado Aerospace Internship, which accepts both high school and college students into the program. The program, which started last year and this year added to the number of students who were able to participate, runs for two weeks each summer and gives the interns time to experience what it’s like to work in various facets of the aerospace industry. Students spend time at CSBR partner facilities where they have opportunities to meet the best and the brightest in industry, participate in hands-on activities, and get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at what each company does and some of the projects they are working on.
After visiting many big names in the Colorado space community, Sabish said his favorite was Boeing because he’s most interested in what they are contributing to the aerospace industry.
“One thing I enjoyed was seeing the design process in action at the different facilities,” he said. “When you learn about design process in school, you wonder if it works the same in the real world. But what we saw was the design process we’d learned being applied in the real world.”
Sabish was one of five 2018 St. Mary’s High School graduates who completed all four years of the school’s Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering curriculum. The senior class in the program, Engineering Design and Development, required the students to use what they had learned in the previous three years to design a project that would solve a real-world problem, develop a prototype, and present their project to panel of experts.
While it was fun to see aerospace engineering in action, Sabish said he feels the most important part of the internship was the connections he made within the industry. The networking piece is the one he feels will help him most in the future, and one he plans to continue working on as he follows up with the contacts he made during the internship.
“Through this internship, I learned that it’s not just what you know — academics and knowledge, it’s also who you know — networking and contacts — that help get you where you want to go, such as getting a college internship or later a job,” Sabish said. “Of course you need the academics, but ultimately it’s the community that helps you use that knowledge and those abilities in the real world.”
Mike Kloenne, teacher for Project Lead the Way at St. Mary’s, is the one who encouraged Sabish to apply for the internship and agrees that the experience is valuable to a student’s future. He said he feels there are three big reason for students to apply for the internship in the coming years.
“One of the biggest advantages is helping with discernment about a student’s future since they get to see and experience several different types of engineering,” Kloenne said.
“Second, the networking piece is something that will be very important later on when the students are in college and looking for internships and jobs. And third, it’s a lot of fun!”
(Amy G. Partain is director of communications for St. Mary’s High School.)