School students in the Antelope Valley studied with STEM professional Oct. 18-22, 2021, when the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., hosted a series of virtual presentations designed to showcase the world of possibilities available to the youth through their study of science, technology, engineering, and math.
The 2021 Virtual STEM event allowed students to connect directly online with engineers and others with STEM backgrounds, who have parlayed their schooling and knowledge into successful careers on the cutting edge of aerospace tests.
Helida Vanhoy, 412th Test Wing STEM coordinator, enlisted the help of volunteers to talk about their unique experiences in the world of STEM.
“We are happy that we have such amazing volunteers at Edwards Air Force Base who were willing to give their own time. They helped to inspire our workforce of tomorrow; they did a great job,” Vanhoy said.
Guest speakers included Col. Randel Gordon, 412th Test Wing vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Denisha Ward Swanigan, the 412th Test Wing command chief, who shared their story about how they got to where they are today.
Lauren Kruszewski, F-22 structures lead, 411th Combined Test Force, explained the opportunities that STEM offers, not only for aerospace engineering but also in all STEM fields included.
The students were also able to see as many careers and stories as possible to inspire them to pursue these careers.
“Kids can find that one person who they can connect with on some level — the person who will show them who they want to be in the future, is a real possibility,” said to Wendy Peterson, director, 812th Test Support Squadron.
According to Peterson, this would allow kids to be inspired by and encouraged for what they are passionate about.
“Youth could benefit by seeing examples in the lives of people working in a productive, successful career — someone who has a similar background, similar life challenges, or simply someone with the same interests and passions. It may help them believe that they can do it as well,” Peterson said.
In addition to sharing her personal and professional experiences with the students, Peterson’s presentation provided some insight into what it means to be a leader in the engineering field and be successful as the youth progress through their academic and professional careers.
Peterson also talked about the importance for students to go outside of their comfort zone. She touched on the importance of students surrounding themselves with people who will encourage them, hold them accountable, and remind them how incredible they are as they endure the difficulties and meet the challenges of life.
“It is usually a week long and it includes STEM hands-on activities, subject-matter-expert presentations and professional development opportunities for teachers,” Vanhoy said.
Following this year’s virtual event, subsequent iterations will be held on years the Aerospace Valley Air show will not be hosted on base, which is every other year.
The next AVAS is scheduled for October 2022 with a full STEM showcase planned.