Story By Senior Airman Lauren Penney

STARBASE is a Department of Defense sponsored program that first originated in Michigan in 1991. In 1993, the program came to Kansas, which now has five STARBASE locations—Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City, Salina and Manhattan. Now, there are at least 58 sites in 31 states, including Puerto Rico.

The curriculum is designed to focus on at-risk youth, fourth through sixth grade, and expose them to hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering and math based on the physics of flight.

Mary Jo Brewer, deputy director and program instructor, STARBASE Wichita, said, “It is a field trip where the kids come to classrooms at McConnell Air Force Base and do ‘hands on, minds on’ STEM projects. The students come for five days and get 25 hours of STEM activities in the classroom.”

STARBASE students learn about Newton’s laws of motion, the periodic table, matter and other science facts through a variety of activities, including riding a hovercraft, solving a “crime scene” using chromatography, and constructing Alka-Seltzer rockets. They also take military tour to see how STEM is used in the workplace and interact with military personnel from all branches on bases nationwide.

Tours at McConnell may include seeing a KC-135, flight/boom simulators, control tower simulator, the 184th Intelligence Wing, the base fire department, military working dogs, the Medical Group and explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

Community outreach is also a part of the STARBASE program.

“Last year, we had a booth at the Society of Women Engineers event at Century II,” said Brewer. We did STEM nights at several schools including Wineteer, Buckner, Colvin, and L’Ouveture. We have presented at USD 259 Splash and Dash (field trip opportunities), judged at regional and state science fairs, and hosted an open house for the Air National Guard.”