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STEM gives students a spark

By Senior Airman Mariah Haddenham 11th Wing Public Affairs

The Center of Innovation, dedicated to science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, located at the Youth Center on Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, opened June 24, 2016.

The STEM Center of Innovation is one of 22 sponsored facilities world-wide, and will be used to inspire children with an interest in the subjects and give youth access to advanced technologies that could inspire them to pursue further education in these fields.

"Military families make tremendous sacrifices for our country, but those sacrifices should never include a child losing out on the chance to excel at science, technology, engineering, and math," said Thomas Kennedy, Raytheon CEO. "Through the Center of Innovation, we are providing resources that will help military youth gain the skills they will need to succeed in their careers and make an impact on their community."

On average, military families move six to nine times before their children graduate high school, which is roughly three times more often than civilian families, according to Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The Center of Innovation will provide a consistent learning environment to help military children make the most of opportunities to come in higher education, careers, or military service.

"Not many kids get the opportunity to play with a 3-D printer," said Col. Bradley Hoagland, 11th Wing and Joint Base Andrews commander. "It's amazing that we can give these kids the resources to spark their creativity and imagination, and who knows, maybe lead them down a career path in our Air Force."

The lab includes 3-D printers, high-definition motorized drop screens, HD multimedia interface projectors, rocket and solar-panel kits, microscopes, a flight simulator and more.  Approximately 140 children, ages 12-19, will have access to the lab which can accommodate 25 students at a time.

The STEM center was made possible due to a partnership between the Department of Defense and Raytheon, and it gives students the opportunity to create something or experiment, while in a safe and supervised environment. This gives the students, especially girls, a chance to get excited about STEM.

"Only 19 percent of STEM-based jobs are held by females, even though 48 percent of the workforce is female," said Shing Yu, Boys and Girls Clubs of America account strategy and development director. "We want to provide access to the girls and see if we can spark an interest in these subjects early, and prep some of these girls to give them better access to applying for these higher-paying jobs and possibly for careers in the military, where there is also a shortage."

Desha Jenkins, Andrews Revolution Keystone Club president and teen volunteer, spoke at the event and described how programs like this sparked her desire to work with military members who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Centers of Innovation will shape the leaders of tomorrow," said Matrice Adger, Youth Program assistant director. "[It will] instill confidence in their abilities to solve social challenges, and poise them with skills needed to succeed and make an impact on their community."

For more information on the Center of Innovation at Andrews, refer to the JBA Youth Center Facebook page, or call 301-981-5636.