On the eve of the U.S. Space Force’s first anniversary, its members led a virtual Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative, known as DeSTEMber, focused on connecting the nation’s elementary school students with space professionals.
Members of the 328th Weapons Squadron, assigned to Star Delta, met virtually with 850 students around the Las Vegas Valley Dec. 15-17, including 400 first, second and third grade students from Coral Academy at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. They showcased how the Space Force operates, fostering excitement about STEM and recruiting future service members.
President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act into law Dec. 20, 2019, establishing the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces.
“DeSTEMber provides an opportunity for space professionals to educate the local community on the USSF and the importance of a STEM education,” said Capt. James Selix, 328th WPS instructor. “We are looking to demystify the newest military service by encouraging dialogue between students, teachers and space professionals on the USSF mission and how critical STEM education is to that execution.”
The virtual event allowed the students to get a firsthand look at the USSF.
“A new military service standing up is something that has not happened since the standup of the Air Force in 1947,” said Maj. Aaron Warren, 328th WPS instructor. “Getting the next generation excited about national efforts helps build a strong citizenry. Having a stake in the outcome of a new service can drive curiosity and discovery in school-age children, which drives innovation and a competitive advantage in the future.”
According to the 2012 Air Force Posture Statement, the United States must ensure the Air Force maintains the technological advantage through the careful and proactive management of the STEM workforce while continually improving the means to attract and recruit future innovators for the Air Force.
“A STEM education ensures the United States is on the forefront of technology and capability development,” said Selix. “The technologies we use in space were created by extremely smart and dedicated engineers with a passion for how the world works. STEM education provides that bridge between understanding how nature works and the development of cutting edge new technologies.”
Carol Padilla, 99th Force Support Squadron Child & Youth Education Services school liaison, said children are the future and highlighted the importance of developing future scientists, astronauts and engineers.
“The feedback from the youth and adults involved has been positive,” said Padilla. “It has peaked the children’s interest, and now they are aware of the Space Force and how it is related to their lives. I believe it has sparked new energy into STEM and the youth are excited.”
Connecting space professionals with the nation’s students proved to be rewarding for all participants.
“It means the world to me,” said Warren. “I have been able to speak to over 135 kids, so far, at schools in Nevada, Oklahoma and even my hometown in Kansas. As a parent, it was a great reminder of how hard our school teachers are working to prepare our youth to step up and conquer the challenges they will face as adults.
“I always end the discussions reminding kids to do their homework and learn everything they can from their lessons. STEM builds a great foundation to help build a problem-solving ability that will help them the rest of their life,” continued Warren.
Outreach events of this nature are expected to continue with the goal of spreading awareness and public understanding of the newest branch of the Armed Forces.