STARBASE brings STEM to life at Kingsley Field

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

For 30 years, children of the Klamath Basin have enjoyed the opportunity to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through the department of defense program STARBASE. Teachers present most of the material during the school year, but because they are year-round employees, they also run a number of camps during the summer months–and so for the second week of August they are hosting children of Kingsley Field Airmen.

Summer mornings at the STARBASE classroom see 27 students gather for a day full of the most interesting aspects of STEM education. For many, the academic pursuit of these disciplines began with arduous study–hitting the books. 

STARBASE is different; they work hard to show these concepts in action--these kids aren’t sitting at a desk with a book, they are building robots and programing them, using computer-aided drafting programs to design objects and 3-D printing them, and getting a first-hand look at the flying mission of the 173rd Fighter Wing.

“Hands-on all the way,” says STARBASE instructor Laura Gibson, “as much time up and moving with short bits of instruction and then diving in and exploring STEM.”

During one session Gibson sits on the floor in a large square set up for robot operation, with an iPad in one hand she shows students how their iPad’s will help them assemble a robot of their own in a step-by-step fashion. The students line the edge of the square and are soon broken into pairs to build and program their own robots. It’s a scene that repeats itself for nearly every class who walks through the door. 

Nine-year-old Audrey said she looked forward to each day and the highlight was visiting train mountain near Chiloquin, Oregon, and building robots. 

“It was amazing,” she said with a smile on her face.

This year educators added a trip to Train Mountain Railroad Museum, which lies within 30 minutes of Klamath Falls and features small trains, about two feet tall, capable of carrying passengers on a 7.5” gauge track. Earnest says the engineering involved in railroading is something these students will benefit from and that many of the museum volunteers are products of a STEM education. 

“Today at train mountain the words coming out of the kids mouth were, ‘this is the best thing we’ve seen, this is the best day we’ve ever had at STARBASE,’” said Alesha Earnest, the Kingsley Field STARBASE site director. 

Earnest says 85 students have joined their summer classes over the summer and they have already registered 875 more who are scheduled to join them during the coming school year.

The Kingsley Field program launched in 1993, bringing students from local school districts. as well as home schools and private schools. Their mission is to empower the local youth to explore, discover and engineer using science, technology, and math, in a team environment in hopes that students will see new career opportunities in STEM-related career fields.