By Rene Ray De La Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted Dec 6, 2013 at 8:38 AM

ADELANTO – As a group of wide-eyed Boy Scouts from the High Desert watched the firing of multiple rockets, one engineer hoped he was looking at the scientists of the future. “My ultimate goal is to have one of these scouts come back in about six years and tell me that they’ve chosen a career in science because of our influence,” said Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Exquadrum Inc. in Adelanto.

Schmidt and his team welcomed more than 40 scouts and their leaders during Wednesday evening’s instructional tour of one the High Desert’s leading aerospace research and development contractors.

Before any rockets were fired, Schmidt’s team explained the basic elements of rocket science to the scouts, who were junior and senior high school students.

The group wore hearing protection as they watched Sean Kenny, a test engineer with Exquadrum, fire a 300-pound static hydrogen/ oxygen rocket for 45seconds at the nearly 2-acre test facility.

“I also explained to the scouts that I went to school in Hesperia and that I struggled with math, but loved science,” said Schmidt, who has been in the industry for 27 years. “I wanted to encourage these kids by telling them that science is not a scary thing and that if they work hard they can accomplish anything.”

Schmidt — who graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in aerospace engineering and started his career with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Propulsion Directorate at Edwards Air Force Base — said he believes most kids in the High Desert are not exposed to “cool opportunities so they can pursue cool ventures.”

As the tour continued, Schmidt said he hopes the scouts go to college or pursue avocation and return to the High Desert to plant roots, raise their families and share their knowledge.

“Too many of our kids go off to college and never come back to the area,” said Schmidt, who has helped in securing and performing numerous Department of Defense research contracts ranging from hypersonic wind tunnel component development to blast wave pressure sensors. “This is why we have so few professionals in the High Desert.” Schmidt said welcoming the scouts was one aspect of the company’s outreach efforts.

“We work with a lot of student interns, but it’s been a challenge because many of the students don’t have the hands-on experience that we’re looking for,” Schmidt said. “But things like Apple Valley High School’s Precision Machining Academy has really helped.”

Exquadrum has been supportive of the state-of-the-art computerized manufacturing shop, which was created to give AVHS students a jump on the technological job market as well as incorporate applied math and science learning.

Schmidt gathered with local and regional public officials and industry professionals for an open house of AVHS’ new academy in October.

Schmidt said he would love to see more young women enter the field of science,technology, engineering and math, but many of the opportunities are not presented to them because of cultural norms.

“When we hire our emphasis is not on a degree, but the hands-on experience they’ve had with welding, working on engines and other activities that our society usually pushes on males,” Schmidt said. “Most of these Boy Scouts are working on their engineering badge, but I’ve never had the Girl Scouts approach us. It’s just the nature of how things work.”

Schmidt emphasized that parents are the No. 1 factor in presenting various interests to their children, whether it be engineering, teaching or raising a family.

“My daughter is 12 and she hears about engineering constantly, but she wants to be a teacher and a mom, and I support her 100 percent,” Schmidt said. “We have a responsibility to help the next generation in their pursuit of their passions and interests. We just need to show them the menu of opportunities that exist.”

Read on Daily Press website: