FanX 2018 STEM Outreach
by U.S. Air Force Todd Cromar,
75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
December 10, 2018
The Hill Air Force Base Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
Outreach Program recently teamed with the Utah Engineers Council to
present a STEM exhibit during the 2018 FanX event in Salt Lake City.
The annual three-day event, held at the Salt Palace Convention
Center during September 2018 draws thousands of visitors, who come
to enjoy a wide range of exhibits and vendors.
Sturgeon, STEM outreach program manager, said FanX is a great venue
to reach people.
“FanX attracts huge crowds and allows us to
reach thousands of people; this year was record breaking at 110,000”
she said. “It provides us a unique opportunity to talk with young
people who are already interested in many areas of technology, for
example, gaming. With our exhibit and through education, we can show
them how their gaming hobbies connect to real-world applications,
and hopefully inspire them to pursue a STEM career.”
past two years, the STEM program has partnered with the Utah
Engineers Council to provide STEM outreach during FanX. The UEC is
an umbrella organization of 15 local chapters of engineering
This year, the Hill Aerospace Museum also
contributed to the exhibit by loaning an A-10 cockpit trainer for
display at the booth.
September 7, 2018 - FanX visitors
dressed as Star Wars characters try out the A-10 cockpit
flight simulator at the Hill Air Force Base STEM Outreach
booth in Salt Lake City. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd
According to Sturgeon, Hill needs to hire more than 300 civilian
engineers and computer scientists each year, just to keep up with
the immediate demand. This can be a significant challenge, given the
current trends in STEM career sectors, where more than 3 million
jobs remain open in the Unites States.
One way Hill is
proactively combating this trend is through the creation and
development of the STEM Outreach Program. This has become an
important tool, and is a big piece of the civilian workforce puzzle,
Studies have shown the need to spark interest
in students at a young age, in order to develop attraction to
related fields of study and the pursuit of a STEM career path.
Also identified is the requirement that young people need
increased exposure to STEM role models in order to aspire to be like
adults currently working in these career fields. Most students know
doctors, nurses, mechanics and teachers, but they rarely know an
engineer or computer scientist.
Having civilian Air Force
scientists and engineers volunteering and mentoring students in STEM
activities can go a long way to inform and inspire future STEM
professionals, Sturgeon said.
One of the many STEM career
professionals volunteering at this year’s exhibit was Rachael Beal,
a software engineer in F-22 test and development.
not a lot of women in engineering, so I volunteered to help
represent science and technology, and hopefully create interest with
visitors, in particular girls,” she said. “The idea is to expose
them to STEM in general, but also to help young females make the
connection that STEM is affiliated with the military, and let them
know these type of career opportunities are out there.”
September 7, 2018 - FanX visitors
try out toys designed to demonstrate scientific principles
and talk with Rachael Beal, 309th Software Maintenance
Group, and Rich Houghton, Resilience Chairman for Society of
American Military Engineers, both volunteers at the Hill Air
Force Base STEM Outreach booth in Salt Lake City. (U.S. Air
Force photo by Todd Cromar)
Sturgeon said kindergarten through grade 12 STEM outreach is
vitally important to inspire and develop a civilian workforce of
tomorrow, for Hill as well as the Air Force as a whole.
Air Force mission can only be met if the right people, with the
right skills, are available now and in the future,” she said. “As
technology continues to increase throughout the Air Force, these
skills are increasingly STEM skills.”