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Aerospace region educators expand learning boundaries

AEROSPACE VALLEY, Calif. — After a yearlong pandemic lapse, primary and secondary school professionals from the Antelope Valley / East Kern Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Network, came together on a virtual platform March 30 to share knowledge, inspire students, and celebrate extraordinary contributions from peers and supporters.

The 150-minute program culminated in the announcement of annual awards for 2021 in four categories:

Diane Walker, Director of Industry Liaison and Post-Secondary Partnerships, retiring this year after a 23-year career at Antelope Valley Union High School District, received the Nils Nilo Award as STEM Advocate of the Year. Walker spearheaded the annual Salute to Youth program at Air Force Plant 42, and served as a director of the California Association for Career Education. She was introduced as “a force to be reckoned with.” Her STEMPOSIUM award is named to honor the memory of Lockheed Martin engineer Nils Nilo, a staunch advocate of STEM education.

Lockheed Martin, was honored as STEM Industry Partner of the Year, assisting classes and students throughout the year.

Lancaster Elementary School District’s Fulton & Alsbury Academy of Arts & Engineering was recognized as STEM Program of the Year. Opened in 2016, serving 420 students in sixth through eighth grade, the Academy was named a 2022 “Best Middle School” by US News & World Report and a California Distinguished School. It was named a Project Lead the Way Distinguished School. The Academy robotics team went to the VEX World Championships in Louisville, Ky.

Every student takes an engineering course and an art course for all three years of the program. In engineering, students apply math and science content, expressing their creativity and using technology to solve real world problems. Students learn the principles of art and elements of design. After school clubs include robotics, Science Olympiad, and environmental club. Field trips help students understand more about the world, from the F-35 assembly line at Northrop Grumman to NASA Armstrong. A $50,000 grant from the Air Force Research Lab, allowed students to have a makerspace open daily before school and at lunch, where students can use 3D printers, power tools, a laser cutter/engraver and art supplies to create tools.

Lancaster High School Teacher Eryk Frias was honored as STEM Teacher of the Year for his long-term work with the school’s pioneering FIRST Robotics Team 399, and his dedication to continue keeping STEM students up to speed in their studies and project during the COVID-19 disruption by teaching and mentoring remotely.

The 2021-22 STEMPOSIUM was co-sponsored by Antelope Valley College, which provided the ZOOM technology, and makes the entire event available for public viewing at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s91lhuUz3o

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