New STEM School center combines gaming, Air Force training

The Dayton Regional STEM School has opened the doors to a 30,000-square-foot building expansion that includes educational outreach center for gaming software and programming aimed at Air Force training.

The STEM School and the Air Force Research Laboratory partnered to co-locate the Gaming Research Integration for Learning Laboratory, or GRILL, last October. The Air Force allocated nearly $2 million to pay for equipment and staff.

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“This has been in the works for over a year,” said student Rachel Kahler, 18. “It’s opening to all students and includes software and programming stuff. It’s really cool for us.”

According to the Air Force Research Lab, the goal of the Learning Laboratory is to “serve as a national authority on the integration and application of game-based technology to address USAF education and training needs. In addition to leveraging off-the-shelf technology to benefit Warfighter training, our goal is to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), specifically modeling and simulation, and to equip the next generation defense workforce.”

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“We started in Arizona in 2007, and we had a lot of people asking for another training center,” said Wink Bennet, Readiness Product Line Lead with AFRL. “This program is great because our program normally (runs) only in the summer, but now students can access this technology year-round in school.”

Robin Fisher has been superintendent of the Dayton Regional STEM School for 10 years and says the GRILL will offer new opportunities for students to gain exposure in the STEM career force.

“Students will get to interact with scientists and STEM professionals,” Fisher said. “This will only further the STEM footprint and be really beneficial for the kids.”

Jessica Short, high school principal at the STEM School, expects to see more interest by potential students. “It has been a long time coming and this is a really unique partnership,” she said. “It is extremely positive for the school and because of that, I think admission will rise.”

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The GRILL is equipped with several dozen computers where students can work on gaming software, participate in Air Force simulations, and other programs.

“It will mean great things for the next generation,” Bennet said. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

However, Wright Scholar Nathan Smearsoll, 18, says that it is not just about the games.

“These games are extremely refined,” Smearsoll said. “They are used for training soldiers, amongst other things. We’re trying to bridge the gap between games and the workforce. It is very cool.”

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