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STEAM day fuels, inspires thousands

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ashley Perdue
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MacDill Air Force Base opened its hangar doors for more than 2,300 sixth through twelfth grade students for the second annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Day, March 8, 2019.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us, especially the students who I go to school with who are already familiar with this industry, to be here today to see the different aspects we can get out of not just the military, but from other industries who have exhibits here,” said Courtney Brown, a journalism student at Howard W. Blake High School.

STEAM Day, originally known as STEM, began in 2016 and has since attracted admirable attention nationwide. At the event students interact with technology used by military units throughout MacDill AFB, joint force experts and industry partners. Students learn first-hand how STEAM skills are used to innovate and modernize America’s military and industry partners, encouraging them to pursue STEAM-related educational and career opportunities.

“Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics remain at the forefront of our ever expanding world,” stated 6th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Stephen P. Snelson. “Forty percent of our STEAM related career field experts are nearing retirement age; meaning the future of the Air Force rests in the hands of today’s youth.”

According to Terry Montrose, 6th Air Mobility Wing chief of community relations, there is a shortage of experts in STEAM-related career fields throughout the United States.

“We know we need to reach to out to young students and start training these kids now and inspiring them to enter into the STEAM world,” Montrose added.

MacDill’s STEAM Day is one of 150 STEAM and STEM events conducted annually Air Force-wide and this year, it is the largest event to date with more than 65 exhibitors.

“We had over 2,000 students from all across the region that were exposed to not just Air Force and military technologies, but STEAM technologies from industries like Boeing and NASA as well as some of our civil engineers,” said Snelson.

The event started with a performance by the Progress Village Middle Magnet School of the Arts band ensemble, skydivers from U.S. Special Operations Command's (USSOCOM) Para-Commandos, a military working dog demonstration and opening remarks from Snelson and Jeff Eakins, Hillsborough County schools superintendent.

As the day progressed, students visited and participated in exhibits, working hands-on and utilizing problem solving skills in simulated real-world scenarios. They also had the chance to try on military gear such as helmets, flak vests and bomb suits.

Other exhibits included aircraft displays, the one-of-a-kind U.S. Air Force Performance Lab, an F-16 Fighting Falcon augmented reality system, video games by Microsoft Corps, USSOCOM's Para-Commandos and theatrical characters presented by the base library. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mascot, Thunder Bug, the Tampa Bay Rays’ mascot, Raymond, and the Buccaneers’ mascot, Captain Fear, were in attendance.

“What I want from the students as they walk around is to have fun, ask lots of questions, and never forget: keep trying, keep failing, keep learning and coming back because that’s how we stay the best nation in the world,” said Snelson.