MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
If you’ve ever been on Maxwell Air Force Base, you may have seen the words “STARBASE Maxwell” written in big letters across from the main gym. What’s going on in there? Is it filled with scientists discussing the colonization of Mars? The space time continuum? ... Aliens?
Unfortunately not, but it might be the next best thing. Last year, Maxwell’s STARBASE hosted nearly 2,000 fifth graders from the local area, exposing them to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education fields, which is something that is extremely important in this day and age, according to STARBASE representatives.
This five-week, DoD funded program engages students in hands-on activities throughout their time on base. Being structured around STEM, the students will get the opportunity to learn basic programming skills, measurements, Newton’s laws of physics and more.
“A lot of times in public schools you don’t have the time or the money to purchase some of the things that we provide here,” said Sheila Varner, STARBASE Maxwell instructor and former Elmore county fifth grade teacher. “We expose students to a lot of technology that they might not have at their school, and hopefully, could even play into them becoming a future scientist, doctor or whatever they may decide to become. It comes to show that anything is possible and that there are so many possibilities, and I think they see that here.”
Whether they’re making 3D models on the computer, learning how to find a culprit using fingerprints or programming their own robots to traverse across Mars, the students attending STARBASE are fully immersed in the interactive, hands-on education experience.
But it doesn’t stop there, STARBASE offers STARBASE 2.0, an additional program where schools will get the STARBASE curriculum delivered to them, providing an opportunity for the students and teachers to continue the discussion on their own campus.
“2.0 is an expansion of what we are actually teaching here at STARBASE,” said Dr. Ramona Cox, STARBASE Maxwell interim director. “Here at STARBASE, we are only able to reach fifth grade students, but with STARBASE 2.0, we can actually take a version of our curriculum out to public schools, that’s where we are working with sixth to eighth grade students in order to expand on what they learned here.”
With so many big things happening at STARBASE Maxwell, you may be asking yourself, “It couldn’t get any better than this, could it?”
According to STARBASE leadership, it could.
“Right now, we are teaching around 1,700 to 1,900 students every year,” Cox said. “With the current program, classes only get the opportunity to experience Maxwell roughly every two years, our goal is, with more space and with more staff, to be able to service our public schools by giving every fifth grade student who comes through the school district the opportunity to come here and learn.”
Being able to reach every fifth grade student is something that would greatly benefit the River Region, Cox added. STEM career fields are growing extremely fast in the Montgomery area, but one of the issues is the lack of qualified individuals to fill these jobs. STARBASE Maxwell hopes to help solve this problem by introducing these fields of study at a young age.
Unfortunately, there is a down side to this program. Unless you’re a fifth grade student in the local area, you won’t be able to experience this gem first-hand. But wait, there may be hope for you. STARBASE has said they are always looking for qualified volunteers to get involved and help the program run efficiently.
Information about the program and volunteer opportunities can be found at their website: https://www.montgomeryed.org/starbase-maxwell/