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Shaw fosters future STEM minds

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Destani K. Matheny
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 20th Fighter Wing hosted its first Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Challenge and Expo, April 1.

More than 30 STEM exhibitors representing careers in aviation, engineering, robotics, forensics and cyber participated in the event. Visitors explored interactive exhibits and learned about STEM careers from Team Shaw units and local businesses during the expo.

“All of the aircraft and exhibits here today showing you the advancements in aviation and space exist because someone invented them,” said Col. Lawrence Sullivan, 20th Fighter Wing commander. “Today we hope you get a glimpse into your future, the power of education and are inspired to be the next generation of innovators and aviators to win tomorrow’s fight.”

During the Expo, the Sumter School District participated in its first “STEM Innovation Challenge” at Shaw. Local middle schoolers had four hours to create an insulated container to keep ice from melting while they tested it under three different types of heat. Their projects were judged by Sumter School District leaders on creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. The teams also created tri-fold display boards and were mentored about how to market their projects to the judges.

“Shaw and Sumter School District have formed an innovative partnership to provide this STEM Innovation Challenge Competition to all Sumter County students as a way of building students’ capacities to build resilience, solve real world problems and engage in teamwork,” said Richard Phillips, Sumter School District K-12 coordinator of science, STEM, social studies, fine arts, PE and health.

In his guidance to Airmen, “Accelerate Change or Lose,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. provided the strategic imperative to improve innovation pipelines and speed up the service’s decision-making process.

As innovation continues across the Air Force, service leaders are focused on doing just that — empowering Airmen and accelerating the fielding and implementation of innovative ideas into tangible results.

“Our students of today will be the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” said Phillips. “As such, they will need skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking to solve problems we cannot even predict. These skills along with the knowledge of the Engineering Design Process and the Innovation Cycle will inform our students’ successes in STEM related fields.”