Middle-school students from the Girls Academic Leadership Academy and their group leader (left) display their design of a terminal for London's Heathrow Airport. (Courtesy Photo)
Middle-school students from the Girls Academic Leadership Academy and their group leader (left) display their design of a terminal for London’s Heathrow Airport. (Courtesy Photo)

The Los Angeles Board of Public Works and HNTB Corporation recently completed two sessions of hands-on aviation experience with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s first all-girls middle school – the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA).

The collaborative SPARK LA partnership between the City of Los Angeles and HNTB supplements the new school’s focus on a STEM curriculum – science, technology, engineering and math – to attract more female students to pursue degrees and professions where females traditionally are underrepresented.

During the session hosted by HNTB aviation professionals and Los Angeles World Airports representatives, students had the opportunity to perform runway calculations and design terminal plans for five different airports. Each student also received pilot training on the school’s own Cessna flight simulators. Professionals shared details about their career paths and coached the students through the various activities.

“This experience is a unique opportunity to showcase professional aviation careers and inspire young women to pursue their dreams,” said Laura Mohr, PE, HNTB vice president, rail/transit group director and SPARK LA program leader. “By engaging this motivated group of STEM learners, critical thinking and problem solving skills can be applied to aviation alongside industry professionals.”

“LAWA is thrilled to participate in the SPARK LA program and introduce students to the incredible resource of one of the busiest international airports in the world,” said Samantha Bricker, deputy executive director for Project Development and Coordination for Los Angeles World Airports.

“We are excited to share details about our upcoming $14 billion modernization program at LAX with the next generation of engineers, architects and planners.”

The aviation module is one of 16 interactive weekly sessions related to infrastructure. Others included water resources, bridge design, pocket park design, and a field trip to Echo Park Lake for inspiration on their pocket park project. Sessions are led by a team of practitioners who share career information and help small teams develop year-end projects that incorporate their learning. These projects will be presented to the Board of Public Works at City Hall.

Since the school opened in August 2016, GALA’s extensive community and educational partnerships ensure that students have access to the latest information in STEM fields, leadership training, and post-secondary preparation. The school welcomes all girls within the LAUSD who are committed to a highly rigorous, college preparatory curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math. By the 2019-20 school year, GALA plans to offer education for girls in grades six to 12.

Across the country, HNTB engages in various programs and activities to create awareness with young people to inform them about careers in engineering, architecture and planning. In addition, many HNTB offices work with local organizations and schools to provide job-shadowing opportunities for high school students so they may become familiar with potential careers in these fields. HNTB also supports employees who attend career day events at their local schools to present information on careers in engineering and transportation to elementary and middle school-age students.