WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force Institute of Technology celebrated current engineers and at the same time tried to entice a new generation to consider a STEM discipline.
To kick off Engineers Week on base Monday, approximately 200 students from Dayton area schools — including Bellbrook Middle and Legacy Christian — visited AFIT to learn more about what goes on inside the Air Force’s graduate school and try a few things out themselves. The hands-on event featured demonstrations on digital holography, robots and artificial intelligence, high-altitude balloons, building straw rockets, fire science, learning the difference between power and energy on an energy bike, and electricity and magnets.
The annual event is seen by AFIT officials as paramount to the future of STEM.
“We need to have more people that get interested in it,” said Col. Adam Reiman, associate dean, AFIT Graduate School of Engineering and Management. “That’s our primary focus. Get the energy, get the enthusiasm up. Hopefully some of these people will become the next great engineers in the future. Some people don’t know their certain strengths could be applied in the STEM field. Hopefully get them focused on a career toward that going forward.”
The hand-on projects gave students a chance to see and do, not just hear.
“You can talk to someone all day,” said Tristan Naranjo, an AFIT student who helped organize the student visit. “(If they see it), it’s more exciting.”
Bellbrook eighth grader Samantha Goodwin — part of Bellbrook’s Energy Bike team which teachers younger students about energy — chose to participate to help improve her abilities.
“I came here to learn more about energy so we can teach better,” she said. “It helped when we learned about the electric fields. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go into a doctoral field that involves the sciences.”
Legacy seventh grader Jackson Reed was interested in learning more about mechanical engineering but found other things interesting as well.
“I liked the battery and magnets,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
Students also took tours of AFIT laboratories including additive manufacturing (3D printing), wind tunnels, space and environmental labs, and the Autonomy and Navigation Technology (ANT) Center.
“We didn’t know what we were coming to,” said Bellbrook eighth grader Rachel Secody. “(But) we’re learning a lot of cool things.”
Engineers Week, part of a nation-wide effort to celebrate and promote engineering, is sponsored by DiscoverE, a coalition of academic, industry, and professional organizations. Universities nation-wide host Engineers Week activities.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.