HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
With Hill Air Force Base needing to hire hundreds of science, technology, engineering and math professionals each year, the STEM outreach office here is inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals by encouraging STEM learning through its education and mentoring programs.
Participating in nearly 150 events annually, the outreach office encourages students to picture their future selves in a STEM-related career field. It also educates teachers, school counselors and parents about the numerous STEM paths that are available.
Alison Sturgeon, Hill AFB STEM program manager, oversees funding and execution of over 30 local programs. She also coordinates with government and educational entities in Utah to ensure Hill’s STEM opportunities and needs are front and center as Utah’s largest single-site employer.
Hill’s STEM outreach extends to all grade levels and includes such programs as STARBASE that educates 1,600 of the area’s 5th grade students each year and the premier Air Force STEM program called LEGACY, an apprenticeship-type program for students age 11 through college graduation.
“Students need a ‘why’ when choosing to study what are considered harder classes such as calculus and physics. The STEM program works to provide that why,” said Sturgeon.
“I like to call STEM careers the golden ticket,” she said. “STEM careers provide hundreds of opportunities in thousands of industries. These are well paid, respected positions with excellent benefits that provide for work-life balance.”
One of the focuses for the STEM outreach office is to increase opportunities for young women.
Seven years ago the program started WiSE, better known as Women in Science and Engineering, with the intent to generate interest for girls in STEM by providing them networking opportunities, career advancement education, and inspiration.
“Currently only 9% of all engineers and scientists on base are women,” said Sturgeon. “Hill will never be able to have our mission critical STEM workforce of the future if we don’t get more students in general interested in STEM, but with girls continuing to be such a small percentage of the STEM workforce, specific programs for girls are essential.”
Sturgeon said that studies show girls in particular need to see women role models who work in STEM-related career fields in order to see themselves there someday.
The WiSE program hosts several “STEM, It’s What We Do” meet-and-greet events every year to give high school girls an opportunity to meet Hill women who are STEM professionals in a casual setting.
“Many students don’t know what they don’t know,” she said. “STEM outreach can spark interest and inform students at a young age encouraging them to choose a STEM pathway and consider an Air Force civilian career.”
Volunteers from the base who work in STEM fields provide over 3,000 volunteers hours each year to support outreach events such as science fairs, classroom presentations, career fairs, robotics competitions and team mentoring, tours, and tutoring. The volunteers are allowed to use administrative leave to help at these events.
Upcoming events include the Utah State University Physics Day at the Lagoon on May 13, and “STEM City” at the Warriors Over the Wasatch Air & Space Show June 25-26, where there will be more than 20 STEM exhibits on display.
Learn more about upcoming STEM outreach events and volunteer opportunities by contacting Allison Sturgeon at email@example.com.