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Davis Journal

STARBASE program mixes fun with education

Sep 15, 2022 02:26PM ● By Becky Ginos

Students from Saint Olaf School create their own water filtration system as part of the STARBASE Hill program at Hill Air Force Base. The workshop gives fifth and sixth graders hands-on experience in STEM. Courtesy photo

BOUNTIFUL—From coding robots to egg drops, fifth and sixth grade students at Saint Olaf Catholic School had a week’s worth of hands-on STEM activities that were both fun and educational as part of the STARBASE Hill program at Hill Air Force Base. The five-day five-hour program gives students the opportunity to see for themselves how things work and the science behind it. 

“They rotate through the classes like robotics and physics,” said David Amparan, Director, STARBASE Hill. “It's the whole gamut of STEM run experiments.”

The kids do activities in a crew type environment, he said. “They work together to accomplish a mission and that helps them to understand collaboration. It’s not us standing up in front of them. It’s what they do and see so they can define it for themselves within their own mind.”

STARBASE Hill has been at HAFB for 11 years, said Amparan. “Initially it was a woman here who ran a family organization on HAFB. She submitted an application to the Department of Defense to fund the program so it could start.”

In the beginning there was one classroom, he said. “Then up to two classrooms and now we can bring three classes in all at once to enjoy the program during the day. We have our own teachers who all have STEM backgrounds.”

Amparan said the program is packed all year long. “It runs from fall to the end of school. We love it. This year Saint Olaf joined us and we’ve brought in schools from Salt Lake and North Summit. We’d like to branch out as far as we can.”

“It’s a semester of science in one week,” said Chris Stokes, Saint Olaf Catholic School science teacher. “It’s a ton of work and very demanding. I’m proud of the kids as well as the team on base. They’re very professional.”

The kids learned about water quality and filtration, he said. “They took the dirty water through the sequence of the filter and collected the data and ranked it in terms of filtration properties.”

For the egg drop they were given a budget and had to work within those engineering constraints, said Amparan. “They had to figure out how to secure the egg in two ways. It was a very immersive experience.”

“I liked the robots,” said Crew, a student at Saint Olaf. “There was a coding design challenge where the robot had to move rocks on Mars and repair a water system.”

“We looked at pictures of dinosaur footprints and made guesses about what they were doing and where they were going,” said Conner. 

“I liked coding,” said Tristan. “I’ve never done it before and it was a lot of fun.”

“It’s a real gift to have access to this amazing resource,” said Stokes. “I can’t speak highly enough of the instructors there. As a fifth grader I would have thought ‘wow, this is amazing.’”

Stokes has been at the school for 10 years. “I love teaching science,” he said. “It’s fun to touch base with others whose focus is on that too. It gave the students an opportunity to get outside of the school. STARBASE Hill is making quite an impact.” λ