News>AEDC’s STEM spokesperson speaks about national educational challenges and how to tackle them
1st Lt. Bradley Chronister, AEDC’s Investments Branch lead, takes a turn at using the rocket launcher, which is used to show science basics at STEM outreach events to local kindergarten through senior high school students in surrounding communities. The rocket launcher was one of several teaching aids available to view and learn how to use during a recent presentation hosted by Jere Matty, AEDC’s STEM educational outreach specialist, in the lobby of the A&E Building. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)
Jere Matty, AEDC’s STEM educational outreach specialist, shows 1st Lt. Will Parker, AEDC’s commander’s executive officer, how to operate the flow visualization tunnel at a presentation of STEM teaching aids held recently in the lobby of the A&E Building. Matty, AEDC’s Air Force officers and engineers visit local public schools to hold STEM events to encourage young people to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics educations and careers. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)
Britt Covington, AEDC’s executive director, examines some solar-themed teaching aids as Jere Matty, AEDC’s STEM educational outreach specialist, talks about how the STEM demonstration aids can be used to provide local students with a visual, hands-on idea of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles are applied. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)
This scene of colonists on the surface of the Moon is part of a multi-media presentation that can be generated on the parabolic screen inside an inflatable planetarium in a recent STEM presentation held at AEDC’s lobby in the A&E Building. It is one of several teaching aids taken to events hosted by Jere Matty, AEDC’s STEM education outreach specialist, and AEDC’s engineers to encourage young people to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics educations and careers. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)
Dow Jones, AEDC contracting officer, and her daughter, Holly Jones, with base services, watch as Jere Matty, AEDC’s STEM educational outreach specialist, sets up a flow visualization tunnel at a presentation of STEM teaching aids held recently in the lobby of the A&E Building. The tunnel was one of a number of teaching aids on display to promote educations and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to kindergarten through senior high school students in the surrounding counties. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)
7/11/2012 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- U.S. education statistics for 2012 paint a discouraging, if not an almost grim picture, according to Jere Matty, AEDC's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational outreach specialist.
"The Department of Defense has an ever-increasing need for employees in scientific, technology, engineering and math-related career fields," he said. "But one fifth of U.S. fourth graders lack the competence to perform even basic mathematical computations."
Matty said much of the problem can be traced to a lack of interest in STEM fields where even the most proficient students are gravitating away from STEM-related professions.
"Department of Education statistics for 2012 reveal that less than one percent of current U.S. elementary school students will seek an advanced education in the sciences," he said. "Now, I'm reading this verbatim, 'Of 15 year olds in 27 countries, U.S. youth ranked 18th in math and 14th in science. Half of U.S. graduates in STEM career fields are foreign nationals who can't get required security clearances.'"
Matty said the bottom line couldn't be more obvious.
"We desperately need U.S. students to get excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, math and aviation so they'll become the future Air Force STEM professionals who are required for us to dominate air, space and cyberspace."
For Matty, a former Air Force pilot and retired engineer, he knows the solution is far removed from mastering a pre-flight checklist or learning to tackle the latest modeling and simulation testing software.
"It's boiling the STEM basics down to a level any young person can grasp, by showing them the physics of airflow over a model car in our wind tunnel that actually takes force data while they run the test," he said. "Or we can take young people into our portable discovery dome, an inflatable planetarium where we can project large, colorful images of galaxies, and 3-D animation of men on the surface of the Moon, as they explore new terrain."
Matty says a rocket constructed of a straw, paper and clay may not sound exciting, until you see the expression of a child's face when he or she learns the basics of propulsion physics.
"I'm just getting started in my new role, my second career with AEDC," Matty said. "My goal is to help engineers, especially the younger ones, learn how to connect with young people with the help of these relatively simple teaching aids that are both educational and fun."
Matty emphasized that the STEM program at AEDC has always been a team effort.
"My predecessor, Mr. Wayne Goff, did a great job of getting this program off the ground and purchased most of the excellent STEM equipment we have now," he said. "Mr. Britt Covington, AEDC's executive director, and AEDC Commander Col. Brewer have been huge supporters and given the green light for Air Force volunteers to assist on a non-interference basis with their regular duties. Likewise, Mr. Steve Pearson, ATA's general manager, is very enthusiastic about encouraging STEM and has provided critical ATA support to ensure the success of this."
Matty added, "So we already have a lot of folks at AEDC who have an interest and are involved in encouraging young folks in the STEM fields. A big part of my job is to help facilitate and coordinate efforts already ongoing. If we can light that intellectual fire within these young students, especially in kindergarten and early grade school, we will be a lot further along in restoring and ensuring our country's preeminence in the STEM fields. It is just those capabilities that have made our country unequaled for generations in science, technology, engineering and math."