Edwards personnel joined forces to educate and mentor approximately 3,000 local youths during the 21st annual Salute to Youth career day event put on by the Antelope Valley Union High School District, which was held at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds Sept. 13.
Team Edwards sent representatives from a variety of career backgrounds including environmental management, engineering, maintenance, human resources, finance and even an F-22 pilot was in attendance, eager to inspire students. The STEM oriented event, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; gave students a unique first-hand look at the exciting career opportunities that await them.
“The volunteers that participated in the event worked hard to attract students to career opportunities at Edwards through a variety of hands-on, engaging activities. They talked with the kids about future career possibilities, career paths and professional organizations to get involved with and really inspired them,” said Mickey Bowen, Air Force Test Center STEM Outreach director.
Throughout the event, students from across the Antelope Valley had the opportunity to see demonstrations from Edwards personnel with calculator robots, which offered a fun and friendly introduction to computer programming. It also happens to play a critical, much more advanced role in remotely piloted RQ-4 Global Hawk operations.
An F-22 simulator also was available to students showing them that the sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a future career. For students who took advantage of test driving the latest and greatest Air Force fighter jet, the experience came complete with a rare opportunity to receive pointers from someone who flies the aircraft for a living. Helping students soar was Lt. Col. Devin Traynor, an F-22 pilot and director of operations from the 411th Flight Test Squadron.
“During our prep meetings, we decided that we wanted this year to be different. We did not just want to be behind a table, we wanted to get out there and meet and inspire the kids. Through interactive displays complete with calculator robots and an F-22 simulator, we had great volunteers and great activities to engage the students with,” said Bowen.
Although the displays were fun and engaging, Edwards personnel brought handouts packed with useful information for students, teachers and parents. At the end of the event, students learned first-hand how STEM is applied in the workforce and had the resources to know how to get there.
Participation in the 2012 Salute to Youth event aligns with the Air Force’s goal to get out into the community to mentor, tutor and recruit the very best.
“The Air Force has a strategic roadmap for STEM that was approved in 2011. It is part of the Air Force mission to aggressively pursue the STEM workforce and to get out to the schools,” said Bowen. “That’s why we do this, it’s important to the Air Force and it’s important to us on a personal level.”
For Derek Brown, Global Vigilance Combined Test Force acquisition manager, who worked alongside Bowen at the event, participating meant much more than just meeting Air Force’s goals for education outreach. For him, participating in the event was most importantly about taking time to give back to the future of the workforce.
“Members of my family work with children on a daily basis including my wife Tracy, who has worked with children for over 20 years,” said Brown. “They have inspired me to take advantage of every opportunity to step out of the day-to-day routine and give back to the youth of America.”
At the 2012 Salute to Youth event, Team Edwards personnel joined forces with volunteers from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Southern California Edison and dozens of other exhibitors to give the students a day packed with inspiration.
The event offered students more than a peek into what they can accomplish through STEM education in the workplace; they had the opportunity to talk about STEM degree programs with representatives from local colleges such as Antelope Valley College and Cal State University Bakersfield’s campus located on the AVC campus.
“The event was an absolute success. It was everything they needed to get engaged and inspired. At the end of the day, all I could do is smile knowing that we successfully reached out to all those kids and let them know they really can do anything,” said Bowen.