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Scott Airmen inspire youth at Community Science Showcase

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Garcia
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Scott Air Force Base, an installation with a wide range of cyber capabilities and active duty computer and software programmers, recently collaborated with the St. Louis Science Center to help expose youth to the STEM-related career fields in the Air Force at the Community Science Showcase Jan. 16. 

“Many people in our community aren’t lucky enough to interact with STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) professionals in their daily lives, so participating in outreach events like this is critical,” said Chief Master Sgt. Diane Slazinik, 375th Communications Group superintendent. 

“It’s important we show the diversity available, not only in the wide range of STEM fields that are out there, but also the range of people working in those fields. It’s great for kids to be able to go to an event, see someone doing something, and them being able to make the connection, ‘here is a person just like me, look at what they’re doing. I could do that too.’”

Airmen from the 375th Medical Group demonstrated how to extract DNA from strawberries and showed effects of acids on teeth. Recruiters from the 345th Recruiting Squadron also offered many attendees their first Virtual Reality experience.

This provided an opportunity for audience members to find out about the many other STEM-related jobs that are represented in the Air Force. 

Slazinik said she feels it is important to target under-represented groups, like minorities and women, with STEM outreach initiatives. She also stressed the importance of getting young women involved and showing them there are capable female role models in the science fields.

The number of women in STEM fields is increasing, but they are still under-represented in comparison to the overall amount of women in the workforce, she said.

“In today’s environment, where technology is at everyone’s fingertips, it is just as important as it was 20 years ago to inspire the rising generations to dig deeper and ignite the spark of curiosity to find out how technology works,” Slazinik said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, STEM-related careers are expected to increase by 14 percent overall by 2020. That’s why Scott AFB is not only partnering with the local community in highlighting STEM, but also hosting their own STEM outreach opportunities on base. For example, in September Scott AFB hosted more than 350 students from surrounding middle schools for its first ever STEM day event. 

The purpose was to showcase how Team Scott implements all areas of STEM on a daily basis to enable rapid global mobility. Demonstrations included cyber hacking, live explosives, taser usage, aeromedical evacuation, radiology, patient transportation, medical equipment repair, and chemical, biological, nuclear, and explosive detection.

Slazinik said she believes there is an abundance of qualified users of technology, but a deficit in the amount of people who are trained and educated to create and secure it.

“It is important to our national security that we focus people on the security needs for our emerging technology and STEM outreach is the key to creating an initial spark to build the developing workforce of the future,” said Slazinik. “That is why we are partnering with education and industry within our community to ensure we are preparing students for the jobs we need them to fill when they enter the workforce.”