By Dr. Sandra M. Cook
Teacher, Port St. Joe High School
As a teenager, eight days can seem like an eternity, but three Gulf County students, – Allen Davis, Cordale Green, and Samantha Hoover –had an experience of a lifetime while participating in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) camp hosted by Tyndall Air Force Base and sponsored by FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Project through the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium in Chipley, Florida.
For eight days, these students were introduced to the world of work in a way they never dreamed possible. The focus was on STEM-related jobs and careers through the efforts of the Tyndall Research Site Commander, Lt. Col. Donna Pilson and Capt. Kurt Silsby, who provided numerous adventures for the students, and Sandra Cook, Ph.D., a Port St. Joe High School math teacher who served as the teacher liaison for the experience.
The students were exposed to areas of research which was centered on fire protection of our military personnel and ways to create alternate means of energy. Some of the areas in particular that the students participated in were to design, build, and test a protective shield for precious cargo; to feed algae that is being developed to provide an alternative energy source; to learn about various ways research is being developed to protect our soldiers from fire through repellants for their uniforms to protection while fighting aircraft fuel fires. Another major source of fun was driving several military vehicles which were definitely a highlight of their day – remotely driving a mine sweeper, participating in the F-15 simulator, and driving a bomb loader.
With each and every aspect of their investigations, the students were exposed to information about various jobs, not only from the military aspect, but with civilian possibilities in mind, as well. The information shared came from officers, enlisted service personnel, contractors, and civil service employees. Some of the jobs and careers shared were civil, mechanical, and electrical engineers, chemists, physicists, many areas of the F-22 maintenance, numerous medical fields, plus many other possibilities.
For these eight days, the students were immersed into a world that created interest, questions, and wonder. There is no doubt that this was an experience of a lifetime for these three students that will not soon be forgotten. There will always be a new level of respect for the men and women who serve our country for Allen, Cordale, and Samantha.