By Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Science and technology educators from across the country travelled to Schriever Air Force Base July 14, to see first-hand the work of the 50th Space Wing and the world-wide capabilities it provides as part of the Air Force Recruiting Service’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics-focused outreach efforts.
The AFRS works in coordination with the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology program to excite and inspire teachers, mentors and students who are interested in STEM curriculum.
“This is a program designed to inspire kids in terms of STEM, but it is larger than that. It also grows the next generation of professionals,” said Brig. Gen. James Johnson, Air Force Recruiting Service commander.
This is the second year FIRST educators and mentors had the opportunity to visit professionals here to better understand how STEM curriculum translates into today’s ever-evolving world of technology.
“We try to showcase how STEM is put into practice in the Air Force,” said Bo Bradbury, GSD&M Advertising vice president and account director from Austin, Texas. “We want to shed new light on things that may be common knowledge internally to the Air Force, like the fact the Air Force operates in three domains — Air, Space and Cyberspace.”
While at Schriever, FIRST educators toured the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons, the Integrated Operations Environment, Global Broadcast Service, and engaged in cyber-tech demonstrations by the 50th Space Communications Squadron.
“So often, the understanding is the Air Force is planes and pilots and that is where the knowledge stops, so we are telling the rest of the story,” said Bradbury.
The visit also featured a mission brief and a discussion with the 50th Space Wing commander, Col. DeAnna M. Burt.
“Getting kids involved in innovation and working as a team to solve a problem is huge,” said Burt. “Those are skills we need in our Air Force and our military today. We need problem solvers.”
According to www.usfirst.org, the mission of FIRST is “to show students of every age that science, technology, and problem-solving are not only fun and rewarding, but are proven paths to successful careers and a bright future.”
“It’s really just pure passion. We care for the students. It is no different than active parents being involved in academics, athletics, music — this just happens to be robotics,” said Bradbury.
Several FIRST mentors were happy to see how the curriculum they teach is applied in the real world.
“A couple teachers mentioned to me today that they know what to teach and how to teach it, but what they have a hard time with is students understanding why they need to learn it,” said Nikki Adams, GSD&M Advertising account manager from Austin, Texas. “This experience has really brought them full circle on the why, and how important what they are teaching is to the world in general. Without this experience, they hadn’t connected those dots.”
Burt stressed providing STEM opportunities early on in a student’s educational career is important, which aligns precisely with FIRST’s goal of inspiring the youth of America to enter into STEM fields.
“We have 18 year olds flying GPS satellites,” said Burt. “Eighteen year olds with multi-million dollar equipment and little training — but that is how good they are, and it is all because of the things [programs like FIRST] are doing and the technology they get their hands on very early.”
FIRST is a nonprofit that was founded in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. To learn more about FIRST, or Air Force Recruiting efforts, go to www.usfirst.org or www.airforce.com respectively.