HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
Hill’s STEM Outreach Program notched another successful event as about 1,000 high school students attended its booth at the Nov. 7 Northern Utah STEM Expo.
The community event was an opportunity for students to engage with more than 60 STEM-driven businesses and higher-education institutions so they will have important information and background to make informed career path decisions.
Mark Erickson, the new STEM Outreach Program manager, said it’s important for the STEM program to participate in local events to help raise awareness of potential careers at Hill.
“STEM is important because that’s the future,” he said. “Technology is going to be more and more ingrained in everyday life and there will be an abundance of STEM opportunities in the coming years.”
Erickson, who became the new program manager in August, oversees funding and execution of about 30 local programs. He 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, which 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.
Erickson said Hill Air Force Base hires hundreds of science, technology, engineering and math professionals each year, making it vital to create a recruitment pool by inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals through its education and mentoring programs.
“My primary goal is to get kids excited about STEM,” he said. “I want these young students to know about what happens at Hill and the interesting jobs we have here. I want these students who are interested in pursuing a STEM degree to consider Hill as a place to work.”
For the STEM Expo, he exhibited an A-10 cockpit borrowed from the Hill Aerospace Museum, as well as a “recruiting robot,” virtual reality, and 3D printing. He said he will continue to make improvements to his exhibits to ensure they are integrated to the actual workload at Hill.
“I want it to be meaningful,” Erickson said. “I’d like to demonstrate to students how we are using STEM on base. I’d like to say, ‘Here are some of the problems we’ve solved at Hill Air Force Base using STEM.’”
Erickson graduated from the University of Utah with an electrical engineering degree in 2007. Before taking on the position of STEM manager, Erickson worked for eight years in the 309th Software Engineering Group. He’s hoping he can use his knowledge and experience to take Hill’s STEM Outreach Program to the next level.