EDWARDS AFB — Air Force, community and educational leaders came together Fri­day to celebrate a new science educational pro­gram befitting “the center of the aerospace testing universe” at Edwards Air Force Base.

STARBASE is a Department of Defense program designed to bring interactive education in science, technology, engineering and math to fifth-graders.

The STEM educational program is housed in an unused building on the Branch Elementary School campus.

“STARBASE is an awesome program. You should be excited by the robots you see and the screens that you see and the computers that you see,” Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert III, 412th Test Wing commander, told the Branch Elementary School students gathered for the STARBASE ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Just know that when you walk out of fifth grade at the end of this school year, you’re going to have the opportunity to interact with all of these things, because you are that important to us. Fifth-graders, you’re in for a treat.”

“In order to do all the amazing things we do here 10 years from now or 20 years from now, we need to prepare you, and you are all well worth our investment so that we stay strong as a nation and that we have the type of brain power that we need to continue on into the future,” he said.

The program uses hands-on activities to teach about var­ious principles, such as the engineering process, ro­bot­ics, Newton’s laws and nav­ig­ation and mapping, in­struc­tor Janet Creech said.

The lessons are designed to be aligned with both state and national educational standards, Creech said.

The STARBASE program is 25 hours long, run either as a week-long endeavor or one day a week for five weeks, whatever is best to accommodate the schools sending their fifth-grade classes.

Each five-hour block covers a topic and may include launching model rock­ets, designing a pro­tect­ive restraint for an “egg-stronaut” or using com­puter-aided de­sign software to create prototypes.

Included are resources for teachers to use in their classrooms, should they wish to further explore the topics.

The resources of the base community will be used wher­ever possible to help en­gage students in the dif­fer­ent lessons. A key part of the program is exploring STEM careers, which will be aided by guest speakers from the Edwards AFB com­­mu­nity and tours of var­i­ous facilities, Creech said.

“STARBASE is really made for Edwards,” she said.

Illustrating some of the ways the Edwards com­mu­nity will work into the STARBASE effort, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from several base organizations were on hand for Friday’s cer­e­mony, including the Air Force Rocket Lab, NASA Arm­strong Flight Research Cen­ter and the Global Vig­il­ance Combined Test Force, which includes the base’s Glo­bal Hawk unmanned ve­hicle testing.

Members of the Desert Ju­nior-Senior High School ro­bot­ics teams worked with their real-world coun­ter­parts from the base’s Ex­plo­sive Ordinance Disposal unit, trying their hands at driving the much larger robots used to disarm and dispose of bombs.

Sessions for the new pro­gram will begin in the next coup­le months, officials said.

First up will be students from the Muroc Joint Unif­ied School District, which op­erates the campuses on Ed­wards AFB as well as in Boron. The program is open to other districts through­out the area, with officials from Eastside School Dis­trict and the Acton-Aqua Dulce Unified School Dis­trict having expressed in­terest.

STARBASE is free to the schools to attend; they have only to arrange their own transportation for students.

The program operates both as an investment in the future and as community outreach, ex­pos­ing more people to Ed­wards AFB and the work done there, said David Smith, installation support di­rector at Edwards.

“We believe if we bring fifth-graders to STARBASE and they see how cool it is … they’ll have the desire to come back to Edwards,” he said.

The Edwards site is only the ninth STARBASE on an active duty Air Force Base; most of the 65 others across 31 states are at National Guard installations.

There are two STAR­BASE locations in Cal­if­ornia, one at Joint Forces Train­ing Base Los Alamitos and one at the Sacramento Armory.

Eventually, plans call for STARBASE to move to the future Air Force Flight Test Museum, once the new facility is built outside the base gates.

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