PALMDALE, Calif. -- A team from Lockheed Martin took over a classroom at Palmdale High School to help students with their 3-D projects, teaching them to think critically and hopefully, inspiring the next generation of engineers.

The students were working with their hands to build aircraft models for a "secret mission."

"This is what the best part of the job is," said Design Engineer Brian Herschberger. "Getting people excited about what we do, getting them on a career path to understand how impactful they can be."

Students had to make a machine out of clay that could help in a disaster relief situation. Engineering teacher Ruben Rodriguez said it was an incredible real-world opportunity for his students.

"This way they actually see what an engineer looks like, what they do," Rodriguez said. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for engineers will grow in the next three years. The Antelope Valley has a long aerospace history and a Lockheed Martin plant. 

"If we attract and recruit people in this area, they’re more likely to come work for us," said Jeff Babione, Vice President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.

11th grader Steven Alfonso took the lead for his team.

"He’s working on the structure of the blimp and then I’m working on the propellers and the fins," Alfonso explained to one of the engineers.

Their airship may not have turned out as planned, but Herschberger says that’s exactly the point.  

"They’ll come up with ideas you would have never thought of because you give them the space to think about it," he said.

It’s a delicate blend of creativity and practicality. 

"I drew it and I thought about it, but when I went to go build it, it didn’t really work, but I learned from that and what we want is that learning process," Herschberger explained.

At the end, Lockheed Martin presented the class with a 3-D printer, but the students really walked away with much more.

"They have the tools and the skills in the world that they live in that’s really going to continue push this industry," Herschberger said.

An industry ready to welcome these young innovators.

Palmdale was one of five cities chosen by Lockheed Martin for this classroom takeover. The event is part of a bigger campaign called "Generation Beyond," an ongoing effort to inspire students to consider a STEM career.