Dr. Barbara Shykoff, senior research engineer, answers questions from STARBASE participants during a recent visit to Naval Medical Research Unit-Dayton. Shykoff is standing in the physiology lab, which is where researchers are evaluating the impact of pressure in the aviation environment on the aviator’s respiratory physiology. (Contributed photo)

STEM groups learn from Navy scientists at WPAFB

When school is out, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) tours are in session at Naval Medical Research-Dayton at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

This year, the Dayton Regional STEM School and the Department of Defense’s STEM awareness and outreach program, STARBASE visited the command to learn about potential careers in STEM fields, their application in the military, and different paths to pursuing military research.

Dayton Regional STEM School kicked off the summer tours by including NAMRU-Dayton as a stop on their slate of 10-day “STEMmersions.” These programs allow students to spend an entire school day focused on a single topic, and their NAMRU-Dayton visit focused on aviation. More than 30 middle school students toured the labs, learning how the unit’s host of advanced scientific equipment helps to improve warfighter safety and performance.

Students visited the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device Environment, Vision Sciences Laboratory, Visual Vestibular Sphere Device and the Disorientation Research Device – the Kraken.

“The STEMmersion programs teaches science and math in ways that we wish we had the time, resources and expertise to do in the regular classroom,” said Brittany Shores, a middle school teacher at the Dayton Regional STEM School. “It’s experiential, exploratory learning.”

Lt. Cdr. Matthew Doubrava, command flight surgeon and Biomedical Sciences department head, NAMRU-Dayton said, “It’s important to get as much STEM-oriented teaching to young people as often as possible. We need a new generation of ‘STEMennils’.”

“Youth today are quite familiar with digital interfaces in the form of video games and social media platforms,” said research assistant Grant Roush, who demoed vision technologies for the students. “But when they get to see the realism of training simulators that combine the digital interface with applied technology, it gives them a real-world perspective of advanced capabilities rather than just a gaming platform.”

DoD STARBASE, a program which serves elementary students historically under-represented in STEM, was the next to visit. The program aims to engage students through the inquiry-based curriculum with its “hands-on, mind-on” experiential activities and motivate them to explore STEM fields as they continue their education.

NAMRU-Dayton’s military and civilian scientists and research personnel demonstrated and explained the importance of laboratory research to finding solutions for warfighter safety. Encouraging students to interact with different technologies and scientists, to offers a more concrete understanding on the use of STEM in different career paths.

“The STEMersion program is an excellent way for the students to explore new career fields and sent themselves apart from other students,” said Jennifer Elifritz, deputy program manager for DoD STARBASE

Civilian scientist and senior research engineer Dr. Barbara Shykoff volunteered to lead the group for the first time and enjoyed sharing her passion for the work performed at NAMRU-Dayton.

“It’s fun to watch a member of a group of young people let genuine curiosity overcome the need to be silly with friends,” said Shykoff.

Though the summer tours have ended, NAMRU-Dayton looks forward to continuing the partnership with the regional STEM exposure programs to promote the exploration of military and applied research opportunities.

Connect on Facebook @NavalMedicalResearchUnitDayton, Twitter @NAMRUDayton or contact the Public Affairs team at NAMRU.Dayton.PA@us.af.mil.

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