For some years the Department of Defense has been concerned with the ability of the United States to produce enough high-caliber science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent to meet the nation’s growing needs in national defense.
In support of this need, strong STEM outreach efforts are progressing at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Directed Energy and Space Vehicles directorates. A dedicated and innovative STEM team is helping to meet the science and technology workforce challenge through a variety of programs that offer unique STEM opportunities for students – beginning in fifth grade and continuing through the doctoral level. Several of these programs include:
- The University Nanosat Program (UNP), a partnership among AFRL, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which encourages U.S. university students to competitively design, build, launch and track a small satellite or nanosat. It is the only program in the federal government open and dedicated exclusively to U.S. university participation in spacecraft development.
- The AFRL Scholars Program was established in 2001 to create a well-qualified science and engineering recruiting pool for the laboratory and its industry and academic partners. The program attracts top students from across the nation to conduct original research to enhance Air Force technology, increase diversity in the laboratory workforce, and promote community outreach and goodwill for AFRL and the military community.
- AFRL La Luz Academy has been in operation since the mid-1990s and has served more than 77,000 students from 377 schools in New Mexico. The Academy’s goal is to inspire future scientists and engineers by providing hands-on STEM activities mapped to New Mexico’s education content standards and benchmarks. AFRL La Luz Academy served over 3,000 students during the past year, offering nine distinct activities for elementary, middle, and high school students.
The AFRL STEM team is passionate about creating the next generation of scientists and engineers by providing opportunities for student involvement in distinctive, real-world, hands-on STEM activities. Their commitment to STEM has driven them to find ways to use a variety of mechanisms to build successful programs that support students at all levels of the educational spectrum.