Science and Technology News

Friday, November 2, 2012

New program aims to get kids excited about science and math

by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

10/26/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- A new program aimed at getting area students excited about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, will soon be opening its doors here. The Department of Defense initiative, called STARBASE, will begin teaching fifth grade students within an approximately 30-mile radius of the base in November.

Hanscom's site will be the first in Massachusetts and one of nearly 80 program locations spread across the country. Although the program targets Title I schools and at-risk youth, officials here say all schools can benefit by sending their children to learn more about STEM.

"STARBASE is first and foremost a STEM enrichment program for youth," said Dr. Peter Holden, Hanscom STARBASE director. "The national program leverages the technical and educational resources available on military bases. Hanscom is a great place to situate a program like this because of our proximity to premier academic, educational and research institutions. We can and will draw on those resources."

Holden's comments echo the purpose of STARBASE. The vision statement affirms: "To raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics which will provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce that can meet the advanced technological requirements of the Department of Defense."

The program's curriculum is geared toward fifth grade students. School groups come to Hanscom for five, five-hour days, spread out over approximately five weeks. Participating school districts provide transportation for their students, but they are not charged for the STARBASE program.

"When we visited STARBASE Atlantis in Newport (R.I.), the instructors were telling us about how excited the students were to come each week," said Cindy Bell, one of two Hanscom STARBASE instructors. "In fact, some of the teachers use STARBASE as a motivator for other subjects, by telling the students they won't be able to attend unless they get their other homework finished."

Staff at the STARBASE Atlantis location are serving as mentors for the Hanscom site.

As students attend the program, they learn about Bernoulli's Principle, Newton's laws, states of matter and more. The facility provides classroom space on one side and a computer lab area on another. The building is also equipped with two 3-D printers.

"Students can use a program on the computer to design something as simple as a key chain or complex as an engine," said Bell. "Then they send it to the 3-D printer and it actually creates the product. It's amazing."

Holden and his staff also plan to offer camps in the summer and eventually branch out to offer teacher professional development.

"The idea is to get kids excited about science and math," said Bell. "Fifth grade is a critical time to keep students interested in these subjects."

The instructors will use interactive methods to help the children build rockets, navigate maps, design vehicles and then return to their own schools ready to learn more.

"The curriculum and the learning environment at DoD STARBASE capitalize on science and math applied to everyday situations using military base resources and personnel," the STARBASE brochure states. "By exposing youth to the technological environments and positive role models found on military bases and installations, we will provide 20 to 25 hours of exemplary instruction, using a common core curriculum that meets or exceeds the national standards."

Anyone interested in learning more about or volunteering at Hanscom STARBASE may call (781) 367-6041. Further information can also be found at

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