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DOWNEY - In an effort to encourage careers in math, science and engineering, Raytheon opened the doors of its nearly 27,000-square-foot Public Safety Regional Technology Center to a group of enthusiastic Warren High School students last Wednesday.
The more than two dozen students received an exclusive, two-hour tour of the public safety facility, which serves as a test and research facility for the company's latest innovations in defense and communications for first responders.
Mike Bostic, 34-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who now serves as the director of Raytheon's public safety solutions, lead the group of mostly juniors and seniors through the multi-million dollar technology center, located at 11899 Woodruff Ave., highlighting equipment that will soon aid law enforcement agencies everywhere.
"Our technology hasn't changed in 30 years," said Bostic holding up a Motorola radio. "This is 80 percent of the market, but smart phones are much better. The technology has been here in front of us all the time, but no one has brought it to the telecommunications market until now."
Starting in the operations room, which simulates a state-of-the-art dispatch console that manages communications between first responders and command centers, Daniel De Sollar, director of the technology center, explained projects like the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS).
LA-RICS is an integrated, wireless voice and data broadband system that will support more than 34,000 first responders and local mission-critical personnel in more than 80 cities, including Downey.
Command pads, which are used to keep police and fire chiefs up-to-date on what's happening in the field in real-time, were also on display, but students proved even more interested in the innovative, hand-held See Through The Wall radar module that can detect movement behind eight inches of concrete.
"It's a terrifying thing going through the door and not knowing what's on the other side," said Bostic with a laugh. "It senses movement in seconds."
Students previewed the one force tracker, a program that will one day allow every police officer and firefighter in the field to share media, mobile apps, and information in one, large 3G network.
De Sollar also showcased the Boomerang Shooter Detection System, which listens for incoming fire and alerts officers pinpointing where the shots are coming from.
As students began to handle pieces of the technology, excited chatter quickly filled the center's lobby.
"The fact that the Boomerang can pinpoint a bullet from a sound, it's incredible - it makes you feel safer," said Nicholas Pio, 17.
"It's eye opening how much technology goes into space and the time and effort that goes into this," said Daniel Ramos, 18. "It was cool seeing all the programs cops are able to utilize."
The trip to the Raytheon facility was set up by Downey Unified School District school board member Nancy Swenson, who works at Raytheon's El Segundo offices.
"Last year, engineers came and talked to students at Warren," Swenson said. "This is more hands-on, more engaging, it's important."
Warren High Principal John Harris agreed that the tour may have solidified some students' decisions to choose engineering and science as their lifelong careers.
"I'm very grateful to Raytheon for inspiring our students to consider engineering," he said. "Project Lead the Way has been our STEM solution including our four-year engineering program. We hope to grow it to hundreds of students. This gives them a new perspective on another aspect of engineering."
17-year-old Sahyena Khandker may just be Raytheon's first convert. After seeing the center's infrared systems up close, Khandker now wants to design her own innovations.
"We learned about and saw things...we learned how ideas start," she said. "One day we'll have our own ideas - in the future. It's going to be so cool."
Published: March 14, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 48