HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — People often think of diversity in the workplace as being defined as the hiring of different races and cultures. The Air Force envisions diversity to be more in-depth.
According to the Air Force Instruction 36-7001, the Air Force broadly defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences and abilities consistent with the Air Force Core Values and the Air Force Mission.
Through this definition, the Air Force Diversity Operations Division develops annual outreach programs that focus on all facets of diversity with specific emphasis on strategic capabilities such as language skills, cross-cultural competencies, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) competencies.
By using organizations that promote STEM capabilities, the Air Force is able to reach a much larger audience ranging from children in Kindergarten all the way through High School.
FIRST is a non-profit organization set on helping young people discover and develop a passion for STEM by hosting annual competitions on innovative projects and robotics based on real world issues, while teaching them valuable employment and life skills.
“What these competitions show are a lot of kids who love being involved with science, math and robotics,” said Capt. Matthew Satchell, 846th Test Group aerospace engineer. “What this program does is set them up for success with pipelines all the way through high school, and if they stay with it, it can pay for their college and get them a job. Companies look specifically for people who have these kinds of experiences, because it teaches them how to be professional in a scientific environment.”
FIRST competitions are broken down into age groups, Jr. FIRST Lego League, FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition. Each league is set up to allow children to learn, apply, and elevate STEM concepts at an appropriate level.
“They want to design rockets, to go compete at a National and International level, and get their college paid for, we just need to help them,” said Satchell.
In each league competition, the children are graded and evaluated on their presentations, building of a robot, the capabilities of the robot, and the league’s core values. These values include teamwork, learning together, honor the spirit of friendly competition, learning is more important than winning, sharing experiences, and most of all having fun.
“If the goal of diversity is a wide experience that will help us solve our most pressing problems, Lego League is the perfect tool to help us build that capability in our youngest leaders,” said Ted Brinegar, 49th Wing community support coordinator. “Where else do children 6-18 years old work on solutions to cover everything from natural disasters to education enhancement?”
According to a Brandeis University study, STEM program participants are significantly more likely to attend college, twice as likely to go on to major in science or engineering, and three times as likely to major specifically in engineering. Once they enter college they are 10 times more likely to have an internship with a company, four times more likely to expect to pursue a career in science and engineering. Young women are four times more likely to go on to studies in science and engineering, and minority members of FIRST teams are more than twice as likely to enter these fields.
“By supporting Lego League (Holloman) has a great opportunity to highlight STEM uses in the Air Force. It gets kids hooked on science and that the Air Force is a great place to pursue STEM possibilities. From the Test Track to the Solar Observatory, from the primate facility to the Remotely Piloted Aircraft’s, Holloman is packed with opportunities to highlight our current capability and a glimpse into the science of the future,” said Brinegar.
“This program changes kids lives!,” exclaimed Satchell.