CHARLOTTE, N.C. - What do you get when you mix a handful of knowledgeable volunteers, some principles, theories and laws, rocket materials, and a group of bright-eyed, young students?
The annual STARBASE Camp has come to the North Carolina Air National Guard Base at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport June 18-21, 2018 with more than 20 4th, 5th, and 6th graders having the opportunity to learn exciting science, technology, engineering and math applications that will help them launch a rocket and hopefully, ideas for their future.
"We [the North Carolina Air National Guard] were one of the first three bases to spearhead the STARBASE program in 1993 and I've been involved with it since 1994 then transitioned to director in 2008 after Brig. Gen. James Emerson stepped down. STARBASE has been to 99 counties in North Carolina and we have one more to go," said Barbara Miller, director of the North Carolina STARBASE Program.
Founded in Detroit in 1989, STARBASE, originally named Project Stars, was created by Barbara Koscak as a means to expose at-risk youth to a technological environment and positive role models.
Koscak approached Brig. Gen. David Arendts, former commander of the 127th Fighter Wing, with her idea and with his blessing, the program commenced at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
In 1993, Congress appropriated funds to initiate the Department of Defense STARBASE program that would spread throughout the country.
"I'm just finishing up my second year and I think this program is amazing. The students stay so engaged, even the students who, teachers tell us, don't always show interest in school. Every time we come out there's always something for them to get interested in. As teachers, this is what we always want is to see kids get so excited about learning," said Robin Henson, North Carolina STARBASE program instructor.
Nearly 30 years later, the program has grown to encompass at least 30 states and Puerto Rico, with at least 60 locations across the U.S. Kansas leads with five different STARBASE spots. North Carolina has two; one in Charlotte and one at Kure Beach near Ft. Fisher National Guard Base.
The programs run off active, Guard, and reserve Air Force Bases, Army Guard bases, and one Marine Base. STARBASE has served more than 1 million students since its start in 1993 and continues to grow exponentially each year.
"I think it's a really productive program because you lose your knowledge in some subjects in the middle of the year and it teaches you some things that will keep you ahead for the next year," said Louis Helms, son of U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeanie Helms, 145th Comptroller Flight commander.
A typical week starts out with an introductory knowledge test that assesses what the students may already know regarding the week's theme, like forensics or engineering. This week, the students will go over team-building modules and curriculum like Newton's Law of Motion, and Bernoulli's Principle; the likes of which will help them in accomplishing their goal to build and launch a model rocket.
The students also tour a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that recently arrived to the base as one of eight aircraft that will be assigned to the 145th Airlift Wing.
"It's a fun program and I want to come back next year," said Xavier Francis, son of U.S. Air Force veteran David Francis, civilian contractor with the 145th Security Forces Squadron.
This week of STARBASE Camp is special given the students are children of North Carolina Air National Guard members and their invited friends.
The volunteers of STARBASE provide a week of camp for the Guard members' children as a way of saying ‘thank you,' for allowing the program to run on the base and for allowing students from local schools to visit and gain that positive role model influence from military members.