Students in Greene County are getting an edge in STEM education as teachers from all seven school districts will be attending Air Camp and learning to build their own wind tunnels for their classrooms.
The first round of teachers are in sessions this week provided by the Dayton-area non-profit group Air Camp Inc. A total of 122 Greene County teachers, three from each district’s building, will be attending the professional development sessions at different times this year, according to Vince Russo, Air Camp Inc. co-founder and president.
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“We’re showing the teachers how you apply STEM in an aviation and aeronautics environment,” Russo said. “They take back to the classroom experiences and real-life examples of how you use STEM in the real world. It makes their teaching more relevant.”
The program culminates on Wednesday at the Greene County-Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport, where the teachers will “get to fly an airplane … as a pilot,” Russo said.
Two more Teacher Air Camps are scheduled for this summer and they are being made possible through a $984,000 Straight A Grant that Beavercreek schools was awarded through the Ohio Department of Education.
Paul Otten, superintendent for Beavercreek City Schools, and Dave Deskins, superintendent of the Greene County Career Center, are also attending the three-day event this week.
Otten said the grant was originally aimed at creating a curriculum for the Boeing 727 that FedEx donated to Beavercreek schools a few years ago.
“As we explored that that just wasn’t feasible to proceed with so we went to the (Ohio Department of Education) and asked for a modification of that grant,” Otten said. “The state department approved that modification that’s what allowed to have this opportunity. This is one component of it and we’re excited to be able to provide that for the whole county and be apart of it ourselves.”
Deskins said this week’s camp culminates a larger project that’s in the works.
“We’re really excited that Beavercreek schools were willing to share a grant with the county,” Deskins said, “therefore allowing us to utilize the Air Camp experience for teachers that will benefits students all across the Greene County.”
In addition to the camps, Russo said the grant is paying for the materials that the teachers can use to build table-top wind tunnels.
“We designed a wind tunnel for the classroom for $95,” Russo said. “The idea was, the teachers are going to have to build it because when you put it in the classroom it’s going to break, right. Well if they built it they know how to fix it … They’ll get to understand the science behind wind tunnels and how wind flows over things.”
Russo is a former director of research at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He said the push that led to the first Air Camp in 2010, provided to freshman and high school students, is to increase the number of STEM-educated graduates entering the workforce.
STEM jobs grew by 10.5 percent from 2009 to 2015, outpacing non-STEM jobs, which saw 5.2 percent net growth, according to a 2017 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
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In 2015, the U.S. had nearly 8.6 million science, technology, engineering and math jobs in 2015; from 2014 to 2024, there will be 2.6 million additional STEM openings available, according to the report.
With new scholarship programs and more STEM schools in the region, more people in the Dayton area are graduating into STEM fields, according to SOCHE, a consortium of 23 colleges and universities.
In 2016, more than 2,300 undergraduate STEM degrees were awarded locally, and those numbers have increased year-to-year since 2014, according to SOCHE.