STARBASE instructor Susie Tyson gives directions on how to apply STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts using Morse code for a potential real-world situation during a 2-day STARBASE camp for seventh and eighth graders on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base July 11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karina Brady)

STARBASE camp students explore STEM topics with hands-on activities

Middle school students across the nation are engaging in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics in new ways at STARBASE, a Department of Defense youth program that uses experiential, hands-on learning techniques.

DOD STARBASE targets middle school students in 62 locations across the United States.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hosts the largest STARBASE in the Air Force, with 34 participating schools in the area, 130 classes per year and six licensed teachers.

During the summers, STARBASE partners with the National Museum of the United States Air Force to offer free two-day STEM Aerospace Camps for students in fifth through eighth grades.

The camps are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. This summer, registration for all four camps filled within less than 60 seconds.

Fifth- and sixth-grade students attended the first two camps in June, which were based on an aerospace theme. Seventh- and eighth-grade students participated in the two July camps, which were centered on the topic of satellite engineering.

The STEM Aerospace Camps allow students to do unique activities they normally would not be able to do at their schools.

“We want to spark their interest in STEM,” said Daniel Andrews, Wright-Patterson AFB STARBASE director. “We give the kids an experience and make things hands on.”

During the first day of camp, students visited the NMUSAF, and the second day they participated in experiential activities at the Wright-Patterson STARBASE facility in Bldg. 6933.

The students experienced STEM by designing and testing miniature satellites, exploring the International Space Station through virtual reality headsets and investigating solar technology.

STARBASE camper Rebekah Scott, a sixth-grade student, hopes to be a mathematician when she grows up. She was eager to learn about satellite engineering.

“I like the whole thing,” she said. “We’ve talked about solar panels and Morse code. We also learned about the International Space Station and how it uses solar panels.”

Sam Theil, another STARBASE student, hopes to study mechanical engineering with a focus in aerospace technology. He enjoyed using the engineering design process to make a CubeSat, which is a miniaturized box-shaped satellite.

“My favorite thing so far was CubeSat,” he said. “We had certain rules to follow, but we got to actually make something and build it ourselves.”

The STARBASE curriculum allows students to apply STEM concepts to current, real-world situations. It includes activities that will spark students’ interest in STEM careers on military facilities.

Camps have gone nationwide with participating students from Iowa, Virginia, Indiana and Ohio. Ninety-six students were impacted by the STEM Aerospace Camps this summer, and STARBASE administration plans to continue offering these camps every year.

“We have a strong partnership between STARBASE Wright-Patt and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Our partnership has a unique opportunity to inspire and educate our youth, not just locally but nationally,” said Jason Streiff, Wright-Patterson STARBASE program manager. “We find that parents and campers are eager to find out when camps will be held for next year.”

For more information about STARBASE or the STEM Aerospace Camps, call 937-656-8678 or visit

STEM Aerospace Camp announcements for next summer will start March 2019 at and on STARBASE Wright-Patt social media.

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