Townsend helps host STEM night in Korea during deployment

  • Published
  • By Deidre Ortiz
Before the career day held for students of military families stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Darrell Townsend had never volunteered to be part of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM event before.

In addition to his regular full-time job as a craft superintendent for AEDC’s Model Shop at Arnold Air Force Base, Townsend serves in the Tennessee Air National Guard. Part of this job means suddenly being called to deploy to a foreign country.

Having once been an active-duty Airman in the Air Force, Townsend is used to this aspect of military-life and has been all over the world. Africa, Ecuador, Germany, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Antarctica are a few of the places he’s seen over his almost 30 years of military service.

But it was on his most recent deployment to South Korea that Townsend was told about this opportunity to get students excited about STEM careers.

“I had never been a part of anything like this but I’ve always wanted to,” he said. “Then a month or so before coming home Senior Master Sgt. James Pollock contacted us, asking for volunteers to head up booths and demonstrations.”

Townsend immediately reached out to Olga Oakley, Air Force STEM director at Hands-On Science Center, to see if she had any ideas on what he might present to the students.

“Olga provided all the materials we needed for making straw rockets and a launcher,” he said. “She also sent us Hands-On Science Center stickers, STEM pencils and an AEDC promotional video to show.”

Oakley mentioned that outreach is part of the STEM program and she was happy to help Townsend with his request.

“We were thrilled to send Senior Master Sgt. Darrell Townsend the straw rocket materials to Osan AFB in Korea,” she said. “Hands-On Science Center and AF STEM Program's mission is to help the community in any way with our engaging events in order inspire students about the fields of STEM. AEDC AF STEM Outreach is very excited to collaborate and partner with organizations, schools and fellow Air Force bases, let alone make an impact across the world.”

While the Osan STEM Career Day opened Townsend’s eyes to STEM being important for students and the future of technology, he mentioned it meant even more to his colleague, 2nd Lt. Ashley Olson, who is an aerospace engineer.

“It really meant a lot to her to have these girls in high school asking her questions and showing interest in what she does,” he said. “That was great to see.”

In addition to the straw rocket launch presentation, Townsend coordinated a second booth with the help of Chief Master Sgt. Mike Brown and three members of the local community.

“Mr. Yuntae Kim provided a boiler demonstration, while Mr. Donghun Lee and Ms. Eunji Kim challenged students with pipefitting activities,” he said.

When not performing his duties as Seventh Air Force Superintendent of ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) Readiness, or taking part in STEM activities, Townsend also got to enjoy some sights while in Korea.

“It’s a very welcoming and beautiful country,” he said. “Halfway through the Temporary Duty Assignment my wife Renee came over for a week. It was great to share the Korean experience with her.”

He also thanks his colleagues who helped by covering his job duties while he was gone, including Tim Scott, Dusty Rogers, Brad Tucker, Ken Vassar and Scott Henninger.

“I really appreciate the support from my coworkers here at Arnold for understanding the responsibilities of those of us who also serve in the military,” he said.