‘Demo Days’ promotes STEM learning during National Engineers Week

The Air Force Institute of Technology welcomed 200 students from local schools to participate in the annual “Demo Days” in recognition of National Engineers Week.

Sponsored by DiscoverE, a coalition of academic, industry and professional organizations, National Engineers Week is a nation-wide effort to celebrate and promote engineering. Universities across the country host engineering-related activities.

AFIT students and faculty hosted a number of hands-on demonstrations that showcased a wide range of the school’s facilities.

“The point of Engineers Week is to get kids engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) research and to just get them excited,” said 2nd Lt. Tristan Naranjo, AFIT student and Engineers Week coordinator.

Naranjo explained that the goal is to expose the students to real-world applications of engineering by allowing them to work hands-on with the technologies at AFIT.

Elizabeth Pickering, AFIT student and Engineers Week coordinator, explained that by giving the students a hands-on experience with different types of technologies, she hopes to break down some of the perceived barriers about pursuing STEM fields and show them that anyone can do this.

In one demonstration, students had the opportunity to build rockets out of straws and test their launching capabilities for both distance and accuracy. With feedback from engineer volunteers at AFIT, the students were able to tweak their rockets to improve their performance based on engineering principles.

Students also visited the Autonomous Navigation Technology Center, where they got the chance to learn about how the Air Force is using remotely piloted aircraft. The students learned about the different types of drones being used in the ANT center as well as see a flying demonstration.

Other demonstrations included 3-D printing in the additive manufacturing lab, electricity and magnetism and a wind tunnel demonstration.

“I think AFIT is kind of a mystery to a lot of students,” said Pickering. “It’s largely military and a lot of these students have never been on a military base and they have no exposure to military personnel. So, this is a great way to get them in here and let them see what the Air Force mission is and how we fit into the larger whole.”

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