STARBASE Expands STEM Among Vermont Youth
by U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Shane Phipps
January 25, 2024
Since 1994, the Department of Defense youth program, known as STARBASE, has been increasing fifth graders’ exposure to the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Originally called Project STARS, the DoD program began in Detroit, Michigan in 1991 and was focused on exposing at-risk youth to hands-on activities related to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In 1993 the U.S. Congress appropriated funds for the program, and it has since expanded to 81 locations throughout the country – including two in Vermont.
“STARBASE Vermont is a youth program for fifth graders,” said Paige Clark, STARBASE Vermont site supervisor. “We have a site in South Burlington on the Vermont Air National Guard Base, and a site in Rutland at the Armed Forces Reserve Center. Each site serves 800 to 1200 students annually, and our mission is to raise the interest and improve students’ knowledge in STEM.”
June 1, 2022 - Students from the STARBASE program display a model in their class room at the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vermont. STARBASE (Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration) is a program for students that provides them with real-world applications of math and science through experiential learning, simulations, and experiments in aviation and space-related fields. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard Mekkri.)
The 5-day program allows fifth graders from schools across the state to travel to one of the two Vermont locations and experience team-based activities and lessons.
“Specifically, students focus on the fields of physics, chemistry, technology, robotics, computer aided design, and the engineering design process,” said Clark. “Our activities provide real-world connections for students through exciting, hands-on curriculum that emphasizes the many opportunities available in STEM.”
Having STARBASE located on the Vermont Air National Guard Base allows students to better understand how the guard assists the state and country, while also highlighting the Air Force’s investment in STEM.
“Much of what the Air Force does is reliant on STEM,” said Dan Myers, STARBASE Vermont director. “The students who go through STARBASE may very well be on the cutting edge of new technology that the Air Force uses someday. Students may also look at a STEM job and see the Air Force offers training and a career doing that same thing.”
Although priority for participation is given to fifth graders from lower income school districts, supplemental programs are offered to other groups as well.
“Priority is given to schools that are Title I eligible,” said Clark. “We also offer summer programs for military families as well as homeschooled students. Additionally, we support 6th through 8th grade students in our afterschool program called STARBASE 2.0. This program takes place at local middle schools and is for students who want to continue their STEM education.”
June 1, 2022 - Students from the STARBASE program prepare to launch rockets from a field in Colchester, Vermont. STARBASE (Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration) is a program for students that provides them with real-world applications of math and science through experiential learning, simulations, and experiments in aviation and space-related fields. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard Mekkri.)
As a gesture of appreciation to the VTNG for hosting the program, STARBASE offers a summer program exclusively for children of military members.
“As a thank you to the Vermont National Guard for supporting us, we offer an annual camp for military families,” said Clark. “The camp is five days in August and is for students entering the 6th grade.”
For STARBASE educators, satisfaction comes from seeing so many Vermont students excited to learn more about STEM.
“Kids absolutely love STARBASE,” said Clark. “For many, our program is the highlight of their fifth grade year. Students really enjoy being here, which makes teaching even more fun and it’s rewarding to serve so many students throughout our state.”
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