Monday, March 30, 2015

STEM event readies local female youth for the future

by Senior Airman Zachiah Roberson
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

3/30/2015 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. recently hosted a STEM event here as a collaborative program highlighting Women's History Month Mar. 25, 2015.

Science, technology, engineering and math; the central components of the STEM Education Coalition, are designed to help shine light on the possibilities and capabilities of today's youth.

The event offered girls in grades 7, 8 and 9 to attend numerous activities on base, giving them hands on experience with miniature remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and even a visit to one of the 69th Reconnaissance Group's Block-40 Global Hawks. All of these stops were supported by female military members to not only stamp a true fact that the military holds no barriers for women, but also to show support during Women's History Month.

"[With the STEM program] we want students to pursue careers based off of their interests, not off their gender," said Eric Ripley, Grand Forks Public School District director of career and technical education.

This program was a cooperatively introduced by the base and the Grand Forks Public Schools. (how many students) split up early in the day, to help them better interact with the base personnel who assisted with the day.

The first activity for one group was learning what the RPA pilots here do and how they accomplish the mission both at home and overseas. Once that task was accomplished it was on to actually piloting one of their own mini RPAs.

"This made me feel like I could go out and do something important," said Alynn Julien, a student at Twining Middle and Elementary School. "Instead of thinking just boys had to do this and just girls had to do this, we can do also what boys do and the other way around."

After learning the basics of mini RPA controls, the children continued on their tour to see an actual Block-40 Global Hawk with the assistance of Capt. Ellen Williams, 69th Maintenance Squadron air craft maintenance unit officer-in-charge. Williams talked to the group, explaining what she does and how the aircraft works; after which the girls were let loose to inspect the Aircraft up close.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to have girls out here getting to see what maintenance does. It's not typical for most people to do this kind of maintenance, let alone the female population doing so," said Williams. "Women are doing lots of different things in the world today and I just wanted to let them know that they can do whatever they want to do in life and be who they want to be."

Seeing the aircraft and learning how to pilot a mini RPA was just the mechanical side of the tour, the group followed through to the next part of the tour which involved a more personal side of the RPA career field.

Members of the 69th Reconnaissance Group, known as the Lady Hawks, gathered the girls in a room to discuss with them what they have done in their time working with RPAs, from working at home-station, deploying abroad to Australia and breaking military world records for flight time. The children were shown that if they want to be a pilot in the Air Force they can, with hard work and continuing to be active in bettering themselves through school and productive activities.

"Having role models like the Lady Hawks are great examples of females that were able to set world records and I think it's awesome, our girls really look up to them," said Ripley.

Just as the Secretary of the Air Force is pushing to increase opportunities for females in the Air Force, events like these help to show the force's diversity and innovation.

"This goal will encourage our accession sources to more aggressively compete for our Nation's top female talent and encourage the next generation of innovative leaders to apply for our officer corps," said Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force.

As homage to Women's History Month, the day contributed to reaching a large amount of local young girls to show being female is no longer a roadblock to a great career. Caring about what one does and striving to actually succeed and reach that goal are the stepping stones in today's Air Force.

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