From Green Mountain to the Red Planet: Local High School Creates Banners for Orion Spacecraft Suppliers

Green Mountain High School One of the two shop classes proudly displays their Orion banner. Left to right: Students Alex Priest, Jacob Shields, Aaron Chouaf and Opal Williams, with their instructors Tracy Csavina and James Cale. Photo by: Aaron Chouaf, Green Mountain High School

Just minutes from Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, CO, vistas of Red Rocks await—reminiscent of what one might see on the surface of Mars. Inside the high school’s Green Mountain Gear and Print Shop, a group of 22 students is already contributing to mankind’s “Journey to Mars.” As part of their shop class elective, the teens are applying hands-on production skills to bring logo designs from NASA and Lockheed Martin’s Orion program to life on large banners. The handmade banners are then proudly displayed at the spacecraft’s supplier facilities.  

The print shop—established in 2014 as an effort to inject real-world business and production experience into Green Mountain’s curriculum—began a partnership with Lockheed Martin last year. At the time, Orion material manager Sean Hill saw some of the print shop’s banners hanging in the school gym while he was conducting mock interviews for the business department. When he found out that students had produced the gym banners, he saw an opportunity to start a mutually beneficial partnership.

“I had visited some of our major suppliers and noticed that many of them were lacking something that highlighted their extensive work on the Orion program and their important contribution to space exploration,” he explained. “I immediately thought it would be the perfect way for the kids to expand their real-world production skills and get some really neat banners printed for our suppliers.”

In 2015, Lockheed Martin provided the school with $5,000—along with official Orion graphics from both the aerospace company and NASA—and student classes at the print shop created 18 banners. The banners are now currently displayed at major suppliers like AMRO and Ingersoll, who build the spacecraft’s cone panels and bulkheads, respectively. This year, the print shop is producing 33 banners with the same amount of funds—a sign of refined processes and improved tools.  

James Cale, who manages the Green Mountain Gear and Print Shop, said that the project has definitely given the students more confidence in their abilities. Cale insisted that in turn, he’s also seen more creativity from the students when they take on simpler printing projects like typical stickers and t-shirts.

“Obviously, it’s a very exciting connection to Orion’s deep space exploration missions,” he offered. “But even more so, it gives the kids an idea of what we’re actually capable of producing, outside of our normal production items.”

Aaron Chouaf, a sophomore in one of the print shop classes, echoes Cale’s sentiments.

“When I saw the names ‘NASA’ and ‘Lockheed Martin’ on the graphics we received, it was so cool! I knew it was a big deal, and therefore I took creating and printing the banners very seriously,” he shared.

Aaron, who has aspirations of one day pursuing architecture and interior design, added that since printing the Orion banners required more complex processes than the shop typically uses, he has undoubtedly learned new skills that will help him in his future career.

“It’s my favorite class to come to—it’s not only hands on and building things, but you’re creating something that really matters.”

Green Mountain High School
Sophomore Opal Perez-Williams (left) and senior Alex Priest assemble banners for Orion spacecraft suppliers during their shop class. Photo by: Aaron Chouaf, Green Mountain High School