Local students recently built bridges with three Middle East District engineers during a STEM presentation at STARBASE Academy at the Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center in Winchester.
Engineers Wilhelmina Pierce, Ingrid Howard and Jimmy Swiggett prepared and delivered a presentation about engineering for 28 students at the Winchester STARBASE Academy.
“I thought it was pretty neat to get kids that young that are interested in STEM involved in an experience like this,” said Swiggett.
STARBASE is a Department of Defense program designed to improve math and science skills for children ages six to 18 through hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math topics. The program’s ultimate goal is to attract and prepare students for careers in STEM-related fields. It is federally funded under the Department of Defense. School districts do not pay a fee or tuition for children to attend, but are responsible for transportation to and from the Readiness Center.
“STARBASE is designed to do hands-on inquiry-based STEM activities with fourth and fifth grade students in our area,” said Susan Corrigan, STARBASE Winchester Program Director. “We work with public school children from Winchester City, Frederick County, and Clarke County.
“We use inquiry-based instruction which is all about students discovering answers on their own and coming to conclusions before I introduce the topic,” said Corrigan.
During the presentation Swiggett and Howard presented real world situations to the students, including acting as their project manager and explaining that they were costing the project money when they asked for more supplies or time.
The published vision for STARBASE is: To raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics which will provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce that can meet the advanced technological requirements of the Department of Defense.
The program is like a field trip but lasts five hours per day, for a full school week. The schedule is non-stop learning, experimentation and fun. Each week, there are up to 28 students. Guest speakers are scheduled for each week with STEM professionals presenting their life experiences and education, followed by a hands-on STEM-related activity.
Another important aspect of STARBASE is to link possible STEM careers in every activity. Community members volunteer their time and knowledge as guest speakers to help demonstrate the relevance of education and the direct link to their futures.
“I was happy to have the opportunity to participate in the program and see how much the kids enjoyed the program and the activity,’ said Howard. “It is good for them to have such a great experience.”
“My daughter DashaVonne got the chance to participate in the STARBASE program in Martinsburg, West Virginia, four years ago,” said Kachina Anthony, the District’s human resources specialist. “She was so excited to take part and remembers working on various science experiments that required the students to use calculators. She told me the coolest part was being able to tour the C-5 Galaxy and various other aircrafts. She said STARBASE was a fun weeklong experience, and something she would never forget.”
The students had an impact on presenters as well.
“I was so inspired by their excitement and level of enthusiasm for science and engineering,” said Pierce.