Sioux City, Iowa --
Students from West High School, jumped off a large yellow school bus in Sioux City, Iowa to attend a Science Technology Engineering Math event. They headed into the newly opened Clinic and Communications building on the 185th Air Refueling Wing's Base. The 52 students, all freshman from Shelly Nash's Geophysics class, gathered in the cafeteria where they were met by Col. Mark Mucky 185th Air Refueling Wing Commander.
STEM is the Department of Education initiative to bridge the gap in youth’s fluency in the dynamic and ever changing workforce’s need in the fields of Science Technology Engineering Math.
According the Department of Education’s Website. “It's more important than ever that our nation's youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions.”
Welcoming students Col Mark Mucky said, "Thank you for coming out to see our base, STEM is a big part of what we do in the 185th Air Refueling Wing and we want to share that with you. It's not for everyone but we invite you to learn from this experience and apply it to your education."
As the tour kicked off Mrs. Nash explained, "In Geophysics we learn how to move things from here to there and who does that better than the U.S. Air Force? In the Geophysics class I like to take the student out to learn about different places in the community at the beginning of the year to get them thinking about how it can be applied in the classroom."
“When you think of how something is designed or engineered, you test it out, revise and test again and again to get it right,” said Nash. We want our students to understand many things in science have a process like this,” explained Nash as she watched her class during the 3D Printer demonstration.
Master Sgt. James Thomas, Base Computer Network Operations, taught the students about a fuel cap issue that was solved using the 3D printer. “The planes we have are like a classic car. Some of the parts are not made any more and they can take a while to order. The fuel cap specifically can take up to two months to order. We can us the 3D printer to make this cap in 20 hours and it only costs $1 to make,” explained Master Sgt. Thomas. “The great thing about the Air Force and Department of Defense is they are looking for ways to do things better,” explained Thomas. “If you can come up for a way to save them money like this gas cap cover they will pay you for your idea.”
Mrs. Nash loved having the students see the 3D modeling in real life, "We have a 3D printer in our class room and they don’t get to see the application to real life but having them see that is truly great!”
The group of students then went out onto the large hanger floor on base where they were able to tour the U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker. They were able to look into the Cockpit and see the size and feel of the aircraft. One of the Students Melanie Conda, a 9th grade student at West high school in Sioux City said she had wanted to work on planes in the Air Force since her grandparents took her out to the air museum in Colorado. She said, “this is my thing, airplanes however I was surprised at how large it looked from outside but how little it was inside."
After lunch the group finished the STEM tour with a visit to the Boom Operator Simulator System. The “BOSS” is ran by Retired Boom Operator Jay Doran. He said over 200 hours of training is needed to become a boom operator. Tech Sgt. David Cooper, Boom Operator 185th Air Refueling Wing, showed them how to navigate the BOSS system, as they laid on the stomach and used a joy stick to connect to the jet below and refuel it in a simulated flying scenario.
As they loaded up the bus from the STEM tour at the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, IA and headed back to West High School students snapped pictures of the historical planes at the front gate with smiles. This tour made them aware of an avenue of the workforce that requires STEM skills that they may have not thought of before.