By Lauren Whitney

DENVER (CBS4) – “I really like it. I’m working with the mission’s operations,” said Sophia Gaal. Sophia Gaal is a sophomore in high school, and — yes — she’s helping with Lockheed Martin’s mission operations. Or at least learning the ropes for the future.

Sophia Gaal (credit: CBS)

“It’s really cool because you can see everything in live time and that they got the message and are doing whatever you instructed them to do,” Gall said.

This opportunity at Lockheed Martin is all thanks to Gall’s participation in the Girls Inc. Eureka program. This a 5 year program designed to help young women prepare for college and STEM careers.

The girls are interviewed along with their families to make sure they are committed to the long program. During their time in the Eureka program the girls go on field trips, immerse themselves in after-school activities and by their third year they are ready for a summer internship. That’s what Gall and the other girls were a part of at Lockheed Martin earlier this year.

One of their Lockheed Martin mentors is also a Girls Inc. intern manager. Danielle Richey is able to relate to these young women not only in her role at Lockheed Martin, but in her work at Girls Inc.

“My journey to being an engineer was difficult there were bumps and roadblocks, but I feel like overcoming them was really facilitated by other women in my life who helped me along my journey,” Richey said.

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Richey loves her role in helping the young girls.

“It’s exciting to be an inspiration to young women who want to see themselves as an engineer in the stem field,” she said.

Richey offers them firsthand advice about working as an engineer, offering a unique perspective they’d rarely find in a classroom.

“I would like to think our interns, especially our Girls, Inc. interns, really get a unique experience using their hands finding out what it’s like to be an engineer and really looking at the next steps for going to space,” Richey said.

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During their summer internship, the Eureka girls use virtual reality to simulate space walks, where the astronauts live, and they even get to try docking the space station using a simulator.

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They also get to help with real experiments and projects the engineers at Lockheed Martin are working on. One major project is how to grow food in space and creating a home for the astronauts to live while in space.

Gaal showed CBS4 what she is working on and said “this was a model to test how astronauts could live in space for up to 30 days.”

Their summer internship is to help gain real-life experience and confidence for the future, something these girls are excited about.

“I hope that more girls get into STEM because it’s mostly male dominated right now and I feel like everyone should have the opportunity to know all the things that STEM has to offer,” Gall said.

Their mentor Danielle Richey agrees. Richey remembers being just like these young girls when she was younger, and wants them to know they can achieve their STEM dreams.

“When I look at the Girls, Inc. interns I definitely see myself at a much younger age. They are enthusiastic. They are a little timid. They aren’t totally sure where they are in the world yet, but they just want to learn and they really want to find their place,” Richey said.

Watch out for these young Eureka stars, they just might be sending the next generation of astronauts to space! For those that are in the program, they are big proponents of their STEM paths.

“I would say you should definitely join STEM because STEM is the future and believe in yourself and just go for it!” Gall said.

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The Eureka program internships aren’t just limited to Lockheed Martin. There are numerous corporations across Colorado’s Front Range that offer internships for these girls.

If you’re interested in the Eureka program or donating to help fund it, you can find more information at girlsincdenver.org.

Watch meteorologist Lauren Whitney on CBS4 News on weekday evenings at 5, 6, 6:30 and 10 p.m. Check out her bio, connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @LaurenCBS4.

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