Hill science camp aimed at military children

Tuesday , June 17, 2014 - 5:17 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

HILL AIR FORCE BASE – Many students in Top of Utah are discovering too late they are deficient in core STEM classes when they look at career paths in college.

“The graduation requirement is algebra two, but that class is a far cry from calculus, so when kids don’t take those higher level math classes, they get into college and start looking at their class load, and see they are science and math deficient, adding on an extra year or summer school to make up for those deficiencies,” said Fran Bradshaw, Director of STARBASE at Hill Air Force Base.

Hill just wrapped up its third summer of STARBASE camp, a nationwide Department of Defense program for youth to get kids excited and inspired to think that math, science, engineering and technology can be fun.

Bradshaw said many students who have come through the STARBASE program thought science was anything but exciting before STARBASE. “We want them to say wow, this is really fun and get them excited young before they get too jaded because a lot of the kids think science is really boring,” said Bradshaw.

Sixth-grader Anika Salvesen, who participated in last week’s STARBASE camp, said her dad encouraged her to attend after he heard about the program. “These are my harder subjects, so we thought this would help me improve,” said Salvesen. When asked if she had improved, Salvesen responded with a quick, “Yes, it has because we did them in fun ways, and they don’t seem as hard anymore. Now I feel more confident going into sixth grade having learned these skills.”

Salvesen’s favorite part of the camp was creating things with 3D images on the computer. “We made shuttle parts and a satellite station, which was fun to see how you can start with nothing and build something really cool,” said Salvesen.

As the only STARBASE program in Utah, their pre- and post-tests indicate kids leave on the last day knowing more about the subjects than they did when they first came, according to Bradshaw, who also says that in older programs around the country, reports indicate school districts who participate in the program during the school year are seeing an increase in their students’ standardized test scores.

For the last two summers, Hill’s STARBASE program ran for one week in the summer, with 64 kids. However, this year the camp was able to run a second week, doubling their enrollment numbers. Their goal is to eventually secure extra support and funding to run several camps each summer.

In the STARBASE program, kids learn about chemistry, physics, metrics, math, geocaching, rocketry, and how to program AutoCAD and robotics, one of their favorite subjects, Bradshaw says. The program also runs during the school year for local schools.

“From my perspective, what I love the most, is this a primarily a Title I program, offered for free to schools who probably wouldn’t be able to do science this way, and this gives them a new way of looking at science and math that wouldn’t otherwise be a possibility,” said Bradshaw. “When they come to us, they don’t even know that becoming a scientist or an engineer is even a possibility, so we’re not just giving them a fun way to see the subjects, these kids are now considering new career possibilities.”

For Cara Finlinson, going into seventh grade, the camp was something she will never forget. “All of the experiences weren’t too complicated, so it was easy to understand, and it was fun to learn about the new things, entertaining us while teaching us at the same time so it’s not just the same old boring thing,” said Finlinson.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.