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STARBASE Indiana making major impact on the youth of northern Indiana

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Friday, September 13, 2013 - 12:01 am

The 122nd Fighter Wing is excited to see plans coming together for STARBASE Indiana for 2014, giving students across Fort Wayne the opportunity to learn science technology engineering and math (STEM) through hands-on, mind-on education here at the 122nd Fighter Wing base, 3005 W. Ferguson Road.

Since opening its doors Feb. 14, 2011, STARBASE Indiana on the base has been filled to capacity with more than 1,000 graduates. The STARBASE Indiana vision is to raise students' interest in STEM and to improve their knowledge and skills in these areas.

Only in its second year, “STARBASE Indiana is making a major impact on the youth of northern Indiana,” said Col David Augustine, 122nd Fighter Wing commander. “The 2013-14 school year is again completely filled up and will, no doubt, be another tremendous year of STEM learning for the students.”

Pre- and post-testing of students reveal a remarkable improvement in the students' STEM knowledge; on average, scores increase 43 percent. According to the academy director, Scott Liebhauser, students typically enter STARBASE with low enthusiasm for STEM subjects and graduate with an excitement that flows into their future studies. This success is exemplified by overwhelming positive feedback from schoolteachers, principals and parents who want to ensure their students will be back the following year.

Indian Village Elementary teacher Stephanie Sheumann said, “STARBASE has offered my students amazing opportunities to explore areas of STEM that I cannot provide in my everyday classroom setting.”

STARBASE Indiana is unique in that it complements national curriculum standards while providing opportunities for advanced STEM applications. During the five-day program, students (primarily fifth-graders) learn to become engineers using CAD (computer-ided design) software, 3-D design and printing, and team activities relating to the engineering design process. In addition, students learn robotics and rocketry through hands-on learning. These topics are just the beginning, as the jam-packed curriculum also includes nanotechnology, physics, chemistry, navigation, data analysis, and geometry. Did I mention that these are fifth-grade students both learning and applying these concepts?

Sheumann also said the enthusiasm her students have shown for this program “is overwhelming. Last year's students referred to what they learned throughout the entire school year. To watch them work together, challenge themselves and take great satisfaction in their successes is the perfect recipe for a teacher's 'great day.'”

To get a student's perspective of the academy: Aaron's favorite topic was the science behind fires and firefighting. Aaron (call sign: Mastermind) said he “had no idea how much science was involved in putting out fires!” He also loved the fact that you can actually have fun while learning science. Noelle (call sign: Cocoa Pebbles) loves the teamwork and mission focus of the activities. She is excited about chemistry and “discovering what happens when different chemicals are mixed together.”

Liebhauser sees STARBASE Indiana and other youth STEM initiatives as critical in meeting the needs of our economy. “If we fail to get younger students excited about STEM now, we will not have a viable future workforce to employ the highly technological careers which will be the cornerstone of our economy in the next generations.” He also said, “If we do not grab their attention and enthusiasm early in hands-on programs like STARBASE, they will not be prepared for the rigor of future college studies and high demand careers like engineering.”

Not only is STARBASE Indiana serious about educating local fifth-grade students, but it also is dedicated to working with the local Fort Wayne community, which supports its efforts. Each month, the STARBASE staff presents a science program to the Lutheran Children's Hospital patients. This program allows STARBASE members to brighten kids' days with some amazing experiments and also provides their parents and medical staff with information on resources and activities that they can work on while at the hospital and after the children are discharged.

STARBASE Indiana is sponsored by the Department of Defense and also supported through local contributions. The academy provides students with 25 hours of stimulating experiences at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne; the home of the

Capt. Rebecca M. Metzger is wing exec staff officer for the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard.