Beale’s STEM Capabilities Inspire a New Generation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Frederick A. Brown

Science and technology soared at Beale last week with a visit from a STEM influencer and young minds with a passion for innovation.

Students from For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) came to Beale to be a part of FIRST’s founder, Dean Kamen’s, high altitude flight in a U-2 Dragon Lady and to witness first-hand capabilities of the U.S. Air Force.

“I’m so excited the Air Force not only let me on the U-2, but also showed the students how relevant the Air Force technological capabilities are to their passions,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST robotics founder and Chief of Space Operations civic leader, U.S. Space Force. “These kids are perfectly set up to be the next generation of Airmen.”

As an inventor, entrepreneur, famed engineer, and advocate for science and technology, Kamen founded FIRST in 1989 to encourage STEM education. By building skills to excel in STEM careers, FIRST is designed to develop students into science and technology leaders, and well-rounded contributors to society. Air Force Recruiting Service sponsors many FIRST Robotics competitions as part of a partnership with the organization.

The U.S. Air Force is known for recruiting the top talent in our nation, this involves not only scouting but actively participating in the development of leaders with the brightest and most creative minds of the next generation. Kamen’s visit to Beale for a U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude flight provided an opportunity to pair recruitment efforts with those very minds FIRST has helped develop.

Through demonstrating Air Force technological capabilities, Beale had the opportunity to showcase these STEM-oriented students how they can further their education and pursue an engaging career in the Air Force. During the tour, the 9th Civil Engineer Squadron’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team demonstrated the T-7 EOD robot to the FIRST students, which is used to investigate suspect packages and Improvised Explosive Device’s in a safe way.

“These kids are looking at this robot and thinking, how can I design this equipment and make it even better,” Kamen said.

The EOD Airmen answered student questions, and allowed them to explore the functionality, and even operate the T-7 robot. While building their own robots, the students wear their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and so took an interest in the special gear and PPE also showcased during the EOD demonstration.

“I hope it inspires future generations to join the Air Force,” said Staff Sgt. Hunter Rudnik, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance technician. “I like demonstrating the capabilities of the technology in our career field and the Air Force.”

The students later were shown Beale’s T-38 Talon’s and took turns climbing into the cockpit while a pilot explained the controls and functions of the numerous dials and switches in front of them. The day ended with a demonstration of the tools Beale’s Fire Department use, that are engineered to combat fires, and save lives.

“FIRST has given me great experiences, especially when I come to amazing places like Beale Air Force Base and get to see cutting-edge technology,” said Azalia Mutebi, a FIRST student. “I now have the resources to understand how phenomenal all this technology is, it’s like I was in a candy store today.”

The next day the students explored the flight line control tower, and learned about technology that helps guide planes during flight. They saw the U-2 carrying Kamen disappear into the sky and reappear a few hours and 70,000 feet in the air later.

Many of the strategies that allow FIRST to work so well are the very same tactics used by the Air Force to develop our Airmen. This involves working as a team on real-life problems, becoming an expert at their craft, taking on mentors to learn from, and abiding by their own Core Values of discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork, and fun.

The FIRST concepts of “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition” tie in directly to what makes a successful Airman. Utmost professionalism by treating others with respect and perfecting one’s skills, and coopertition by competing but also assisting and enabling others whenever you can.

The Air Force’s technology is always evolving, and young minds are the key to developing the future Air Force. The Air Force is always looking to the future, and it is in the minds of the next generation that tomorrow’s Air Force will grow.