STARBASE Nellis STEM Reopens With COVID-19 Guidelines
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Paige Yenke
STARBASE Nellis re-opened with their summer academy program on
July 20, 2020, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
week-long classes taught a combined total of 19 fifth-graders from
the Las Vegas area.
July 20, 2020 - STARBASE Nellis re-opened with their summer academy program at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada with students from the local Las Vegas area participating in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training. (U.S. Air Force photo
collage by 926th Wing/Public Affairs)
The program is a Department of Defense premier educational
program designed to inspire students to explore science, technology,
engineering and math.
Capt. Kalaeone Needham, 926th Aircraft
Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer and STARBASE
Nellis program manager, said their primary goal is to offer hands-on
STEM training to kids in the local area.
“Studies have shown
that kids really lose interest in those items because they don’t get
that hands-on application piece,” said Needham.
STARBASE Nellis was founded in 2012, they have taught up to 1200
students a year and partnered with 40 local schools. However, the
Nellis program was temporarily closed in Sept. 2019 due to a change
On Feb. 11, 2020, a new memorandum of
agreement was signed with Data Science Dreams Technologies and plans
to reopen the school began. These plans were quickly derailed due to
the onset of COVID-19 restrictions.
With new social
distancing restrictions and the need to meet DoD requirements to
host at least two classes per fiscal year, the staff at STARBASE
Nellis got creative and the summer academy program was created.
“The adaptability of our staff constantly working towards
getting STARBASE out there to impact some of these kids has been
huge,” said Needham. “The staff has been really helpful in the
aspect of just being resilient to getting something going.”
Tracy Clark, STARBASE Nellis director, reached out to a handful of
schools to inquire if parents were interested in bringing their kids
directly to the facility on Nellis AFB for classes.
COVID-19 guidelines, a priority was placed on making sure they were
following proper safety protocols. Class size was pared down to
accommodate for social distancing and the staff and students were
required to wear masks.
Although students can’t tour the base
at the moment, total force Airmen from various STEM related careers
visited the class for demonstrations and speeches.
really gives them not only a different aspect of learning about a
STEM approach, but also the hands-on and visual aids of seeing how
the military correlates into STEM as a whole,” said Needham.
Along with the excitement of reopening, the facility will be
receiving a much-needed renovation of roughly $100,000, utilizing
funds received from DoD and those saved during the six months of
closure. The renovations have a tentative start date of Aug. 2020
and will take approximately a month to complete.
plans to host a ribbon cutting ceremony once everything returns to
normal operations and will include local community leaders who have
supported the program.
Although it is unclear how much
physical presence will be attainable by students in the upcoming
school year, STARBASE Nellis will continue to mirror guidelines and
protocol put into place by Clark County School District and look for
ways to reach students to provide this special educational
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