PLANO (CBS11) –  When you think of summer jobs for high school students, memories of bussing tables or mowing lawns may come to mind. But for some Plano teens, laser-wielding robots are all in a day’s work.

At Plano’s Regal Research and Manufacturing Company engineering students like 16-year-old Hunter Helms aren’t likely to get bored easily.

“It was super interesting ’cause it’s a laser, and it’s a laser controlled by a robot that you’re controlling,” Helms said.

The Plano East student is already looking past his junior year to college engineering programs. His internship is part of a program with the mayor’s office, Plano ISD, and local companies.

This year it’s also offering two-to-three-week externships for teachers like Vines High School’s Michael Alves who hopes to bring some of what he’s learning back to his freshman and sophomore classrooms.

“When we’re programing it, we’re programing it as you would a computer scientist, right. You’re looking at lines of code. You’re seeing what those lines of code do to the robot,” Alves said.

The English instructor welcomed the opportunity to teach engineering classes a few years back, but he admits he could use a little more experience working with his hands. He’s one of about a dozen Plano ISD teachers working in externships alongside student interns. Now he hopes all of his future students will benefit from what he’s learning.

“I would like to see a little bit more of the hands on, making things, taking pride in what you do, learning how to measure things correctly, type of work. I think that appeals to a lot of students, and we’ve kind of taken that away,” Alves said.

City leaders want the program to help ensure a strong local workforce will continue to be a selling point for employers to set up shop in Plano and sustain economic growth.

“It’s just a great experience, and now I have knowledge that most students don’t have and won’t have for awhile,” Helms said.

Teachers will wrap up their externships in the next couple of weeks. The student interns will continue their work through August.

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