This is National Engineers Week, and 100 ninth graders in four Colorado Springs schools got to put on their engineering caps when Earth to Mars came to their schools.

Challenger Center, Raytheon and Challenger Learning Center of Colorado brought the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, into classrooms at Lewis-Palmer High School, Mitchell High School, Peyton High School and St. Mary's High School.

The program includes a simulated rocket launch and an engineering design challenge.

Raytheon designs and develops cutting-edge technologies in Colorado and communities across the country – from radars to artificial intelligence to cybersecurity software, according to Todd Probert, vice president of Mission Support and Modernization at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “We hope these young engineers will someday join us to help develop the next generation of software, systems and ideas,” he said in a news release.

Raytheon speakers shared their career journeys and answered questions about their professions.

Students then gathered in small groups to simulate a Space Launch System rocket launch to send a payload to Mars.

The students were tasked with tracking storms and trajectory and ensuring the communications and electrical systems are performing as expected.

After completing the launch simulation, the students did the engineering design challenge, in which they conceptualized components for a future Mars habitat and collaborated to make prototypes of that habitat using 3-D printing pens and drawing programs on tablets.

Challenger Center and its network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers, including the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, provide hands-on STEM experiences to students around the world.

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