NEW ORLEANS - The Louisiana National Guard officially welcomed back the youth science program STARBASE during a ribbon cutting ceremony at Jackson Barracks here, Wednesday.
STARBASE is a Department of Defense funded program aimed at fifth grade students. The five-day interactive program focuses on the STEM curriculum of science, technology, engineering and math, in both a hands-on and classroom environment.
Introduced in Orleans Parish in 1999, the Louisiana program has since served more than 9,300 students. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, it was relocated to Pineville in Rapides Parish where it continues to grow and thrive.
"Today represents more than a ribbon cutting, it is a symbol of the continued community partnership between the Louisiana National Guard and the Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes," said Army Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the LANG.
"This program is aimed at trying to excite kids about math and science … which is what our nation needs," he said.
Cheryl Arbour, STARBASE director, said that now is the time to build interest in the STEM fields for the future.
"During this decade, employment in science and engineering is expected to increase for all occupations," she said. "Because less than one percent of current elementary school students will seek advanced education in the science, math and engineering fields … we need to increase the interest."
The program covers areas such as physics and nanotechnology, and even exploring some space and NASA concepts. Another goal of STARBASE is for kids to learn to work as a team and communicate together for a common goal.
"We use the core components as required by the DoD, but we also individualize our curriculum a little bit as well," Arbour said. "We have a 20-hour curriculum that we balance between classroom, computer labs and hands-on activities."
During the curriculum, students conduct an engineering-design project that helps them learn about space and lab modules. The aspiring young scientists also learn about and build rockets that are launched at the end of their five-day journey and then get to use flight simulators in the computer lab.
The staff also works closely with the teachers of visiting schools to give them new ideas for educating the students once they return to their regular school environment.
There are currently 76 STARBASE programs in 48 states which have graduated more than 820,000 students nationwide.