STEM-stimulating growth through education

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

For most kids, once school is out for the summer, it’s all about vacations and staying up late playing video games until the next school year comes around.


But for the kids that attended the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics youth camp at Ramstein Air Base July 11-16, 2016, their summers involved coding computer programs, constructing robots, 3D printing and more.


For five days, kids ranging from 6th through 8th grade were invited to challenge themselves in a STEM youth camp. According to Monty Bussey, 86th Force Support Squadron teen program coordinator, the topics they learned about are ones that have a large impact on society.


“Throughout this camp, we are encouraging kids to develop a heightened sense of learning in some big school topics,” said Bussey. “As Americans, we are falling behind in these areas [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]. Getting kids involved in these subjects will hopefully inspire them and others to not only gain more knowledge, but also possibly pursue a career in these fields.”


Some examples of STEM-related topics the camp participants learned about were robotics, video-game design, 3D printing, software design and hardware engineering. From drones to toy-railroad systems, the camp encouraged the kids to think outside the box and stay open minded.


According to Bussey, the camp couldn’t have been successful without having fun.


“As the person that oversaw these kids, I always was looking for different ways to keep things fun to help the kids learn,” said Bussey. “Kids would look forward to learning new things every day… our goal was to leave these kids as motivated young men and women and increase their interest in STEM.”


Some of the ways they did this was by taking normal hobbies, toys or aspects of kids’ daily lives and demonstrated how it was made.


“Another goal of ours was to get kids off video games, and instead, learning how to code or design one,” added Bussey. “We want them to become innovators of the future.”


However, Bussey couldn’t do this by just giving them the tools. He needed someone to teach the kids how to use these tools, and one of the people brought on board was Burkhard Link, 86th Force Support Squadron STEM engineering instructor.


“I teach principles of engineering and applied sciences at the University of Heidelberg,” said Link. “Here at the camp, I am leading the classes and activities for the kids to partake in.”


His role in the camp played a major part in helping the participants catch onto subjects and become interested, and according to Link, it’s been a worthwhile experience from his perspective.


“It’s been so much fun doing this,” said Link. “I’ve come to know the kids, and they are so creative. I always feel like I’m underrating them.”


For most kids, once school comes back into session, getting into the flow of waking up early for class, having homework and studying might be challenging. For the kids that challenged themselves at the STEM camp, however, these aspects of school will be fresh in their heads, and may even bring something new to share with their peers and inspire them to think outside the box.