As Hueneme High freshman Bhavin Patel typed statistics into the computer, a colored graph erupted on the screen.
A murmur of approval flowed through the students watching the demonstration at the Naval Ship Weapon Systems Engineering Station at Port Hueneme's naval base.
The students from Hueneme, Rio Mesa and Channel Islands high schools spent the day Wednesday shadowing engineering professionals, doing computer work and taking a tour of the Surface Weapons Engineering Facility.
The visit was part of the 20th anniversary of MESA, the Math, Engineering and Science Achievement Program aimed at helping black, Latino, and American Indian students pursue math-based careers.
Students throughout the Southland visited private engineering firms, but the 28 students visiting the Port Hueneme facility were the only Ventura County participants, said Roberta LaTorre of the weapons center.
Elias Barajas, a sophomore at Hueneme High, looked over Bhavin's shoulder. "I think these guys have a lot of fun," Elias said of the weapons engineers. "It's like playing Nintendo."
Students also toured the Launch Control Unit, which simulates the vertical launch system for missiles. Emilio Munoz, a freshman at Hueneme High, took a turn at the computer that simulates a missile launch.
"Some of it was hard," Emilio said. "But I got the hang of it."
Aaron Corpus, a senior at Channel Islands High who wants to become a mechanical engineer, said he has been tutored by the weapons engineers and worked last summer at the facility as an engineering aide. He was just accepted to Stanford University.
"MESA made me more aware of the different kinds of engineering fields," he said. "It made me more motivated."