July 27, 2012

Air Force partners with schools, universities to promote STEM

by 1st Lt. Ashleigh Peck
Washington, D.C.

Teachers learn how to make science, technology, engineering and math fun by using everyday materials to create low-cost, simple labs and experiments at Howard University in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2012. The week-long camp was one of four the Air Force is sponsoring this year.

Teachers from across the U.S. became students for a week during an Air Force-sponsored ASM International Materials Camp July 13 at Howard University, Washington, D.C.

ASM started the camps for students in 2000 to make science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fun. After much success, two years later ASM began holding camps for teachers as well. The camps have had various sponsors and this year the U.S. Air Force is sponsoring four camps nationwide at various high schools and universities.

During the week-long camp in Washington, 23 teachers came together to learn how to make STEM fun for their students by conducting low-cost, hands-on experiments.

Brig. Gen. Jocelyn Seng, mobilization assistant to the military deputy, office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Acquisition, joined the teachers for their final day of the camp.

“Ultimately, the future success of the Air Force will depend on our continued innovation and technical excellence,” Seng said. “Your being here better ensures the next generation of innovators for our country.”

Since the first ASM Materials Camp for teachers in 2002, 87 percent of the 2,300 teachers who participated are currently using tools acquired in the camps.

“I don’t care what level of education you’re in – whether it’s elementary all the way up to high school – at any level, hands-on experiments provide a greater learning experience,” said retired Col. William Edmonds, the Junior ROTC instructor at Space Coast High School, St. John, Fla. “This camp has shown us a great number of low-cost, hands-on experiments we can share with our students.”

The Air Force has sponsored the ASM Materials camps since 2008 to help promote STEM awareness in the classrooms across America.

“(The Air Force is) doing this as partners with ASM international and Howard University academia because all us are vested in seeing our nation have a stronger background in science and engineering,” said Seng.

This particular class had eight Junior ROTC instructors and the partnership helped all the teachers understand other avenues their students get information from.

“This camp has taught me that there is a lot of overlap that can be taken advantage of with JROTC,” said Janet Fenstermacher, teacher from Yorktown High School, Arlington, Va. “This camp has also helped me form a much clearer view for students as to the possibilities for their career paths.”

Dr. James W. Mitchell, the Howard University dean of the college of engineering, architecture and computer Science, left the teachers with some final thoughts.

“You potentially have the experts for tomorrow, the generals for tomorrow, the doctors for tomorrow, and the presidents for tomorrow (in your classrooms),” Mitchell said. “Intellect and potential come in diverse and non-conventional sizes, shapes and frames. There are individuals sitting in your classroom right now who will eclipse anything that anyone has done in the United States and we must be prepared to recognize that potential and understand that (as teachers) you have the power to unlock a future for an individual who will do tremendous things to advance the United States of America.”

Since the initiation of the ASM Materials Camp for students, 5,000 students have participated and of those, 4,500 have gone on to graduate with a degree in science or engineering.

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