Rocket Scientists for a Day at Ridgecrest’s Burroughs High

Friday December 8, 2023

In the 1940s when the Navy was looking for nowhere, they found the sprawling Indian Wells Valley in eastern Kern County. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake was born there and became the U.S. Navy’s largest installation for research, development, and testing of weapons systems.

It is the reason Ridgecrest exists says Angel Zamarron, student outreach and employment coordinator for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake. She was instrumental in coordinating a recent STEM Day at neighboring Burroughs High School where China Lake employees in several disciplines came out to interact with students and provide a number of presentations and hands-on activities.

“China Lake is highly classified and there is not a lot of access,” said Sierra Sands Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Bryan Auld. “This is one way to bring them onto our side of the fence and be able to expose our students to professional opportunities that exist within our valley.”

Burroughs High senior Kalise Ford shows off the paper rock she made at STEM Day.

The base is the single largest employer in the region so STEM Day is an important local collaboration. It’s one that Zamarron says China Lake employees take great pride in.

“They love to see the students light up. They love to teach and share what they are passionate about,” she said. “It’s my hope that this is a two-way street and that the students are excited, and our employees are engaged.”

Students were excited indeed. Oohhs and aahhs rang out as model rockets blasted to the heavens, just one of many hands-on STEM exercises that students got to participate in.

Senior Kalise Ford says she has always liked to build things and was excited to have the opportunity to make a paper rocket. Though she was disappointed that it didn’t go very far at first.

“I didn’t believe in myself, I thought it was going to blow up like it did last time,” she said. 

But through problem-solving, adjustments, and encouragement from here classmates, Ford’s rocket eventually propelled further than she ever expected.

“They told me ‘you got this, we believe in you’,” Ford said. “I thought it was really cool how it turned out.”

Burroughs High School is named after U.S. Navy officer Admiral Sherman E. Burroughs, who served as the first commanding officer of the base at China Lake.


By Robert Meszaros

By Robert Meszaros

Rob Meszaros is Director of Communications for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, where he has served since 2012. In his role, Meszaros oversees media relations, internal and external communication strategies, publications, Marcom, branding, and multi-media content creation. Before joining KCSOS, Meszaros was the PIO for CSU Bakersfield and earlier worked for seven years at The Bakersfield Californian.