Partnerships STEM from conversation between base, academia

  • Published
  • By April McDonald
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Leaders from across Tinker Air Force Base recently sat down with science, technology, engineering and math experts to discuss how they can work to grow STEM across Oklahoma.

Col. G. Hall Sebren Jr., 72nd Air Base Wing and Tinker installation commander, hosted the meeting that brought together local high school superintendents, STEM professionals and base officials to share ideas that could benefit the base and the state.

Marlon James, STEM education outreach coordinator with the AFSC Engineering Directorate, said Oklahoma needs 3,000 engineers a year, but currently graduates half that.

“Of those 1,500 graduates, 700 are leaving the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “We have to start growing our young people to stay here and know they can have a successful STEM career.”

The way to reach the targeted sixth to eighth graders is by first educating their teachers on the base’s needs, according to Tonja Norwood, STEM program coordinator for CareerTech in Stillwater.

“If you could bring the teachers in and they could see all of the opportunities available, they will be your advocates,” she said. “The teachers are really good about picking up and teaching those things, once they know what your needs are.”

Roger Farris, director of instruction with Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee, agreed, saying it’s teaching from a personal experience is much easier than teaching only out of a book.

“If you stand in that test cell when that thing runs, your adrenaline just comes right up. For a teacher to experience that as it relates to educational processes and theories that comes from them, those are the things that work best in the classroom,” he said.

The event opened previously closed doors, but those in attendance said more needs to be done to enhance the partnership.

“There are programs already established and there are motivated kids who want to be doing something,” said Jeff James, vice president for education with the Air Force Association. “If we just continue to pave that road for them and open up those doors they are going to fill the positions we need filled.”

The meeting was part of the Community Conversation program sponsored by the Tinker installation commander. It brings together base and local officials to discuss topics that relate to both Tinker and the surrounding communities. Other conversations have been about suicide prevention, drone usage and safety at large events.