WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Students from seven local high schools came together recently for the sixth annual Full-Throttle STEM at Eldora Day in Rossburg, Ohio, hosted by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing.
The students showcased their STEM-related projects, including their modeling and simulation-based work, and then competed in a remote-controlled (RC) car race at Eldora Speedway.
“The intent of this event is to get students exposed to, motivated and excited about the opportunities available in these fields, to demystify STEM and to give them some hands-on experience that they can take to college and then out into the workforce that AFRL can then draw from,” explained Winston “Wink” Bennett, technical advisor for the Warfighter Readiness Research Division of the 711HPW.
Bennett also stated that while recruitment wasn’t a primary motivation when this event was originally planned, a number of students who participated with the Gaming Research Integrations for Learning Laboratory® (GRILL) in high school, went on to college and then came back to work for AFRL directly. Others work in industry and in the community, which also benefits AFRL.
Teachers and students utilized a series of project-based STEM learning materials that were developed at the GRILL. They focused on applying skills such as physics (in racing), graphic design, and marketing to design, develop and race their own RC cars.
“For at least the last semester if not the whole year, the teachers have been working with their students on a number of the technical challenges associated with remote-controlled (RC) car driving and other aspects of engineering to give the students experience with various STEM initiatives,” explained Bennett.
During the showcase, students walked around the Eldora Speedway Ballroom visiting other school’s booths and talking about their projects. Teachers and students have a free hand in what the showcase here and there is typically a large variety of very creative working demonstrations from the students.
“It’s great to come out here and see what other schools have been working on,” said Kyle Naumann, a senior at St. Henry High School. “I like to see what the Air Force is doing too.”
Naumann and his St. Henry team built an autonomous car for the Autonomy Challenge, a project he said took two to three months build.
When asked what he felt was most important when it came to his own interests in STEM, Naumann stated, “getting into these kinds of activities when you’re young is key.”
Although friendly, this annual event is still a competition. The students of St. Henry won the Jim Overholt Autonomy Challenge; Tri-County North won the Circuit Obstacle Course race; and New Breman won the RC drag race.
Seven schools districts were in attendance including Arcanum-Butler, Bradford, New Bremen, Northmont, St. Henry, Tri-County North and Tri-Village.
“This year was another great example of what happens when you can encourage kids to ‘throw the box away’ as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein likes to say, in terms of innovation and creativity unleashed,” stated Bennett.
The seventh annual Full Throttle STEM at Eldora Day is being planned for May 2019. For more information on AFRL or on the 711th Human Performance Wing’s GRILL®, visit http://gamingresearchintegrationforlearninglab.com.