NORFOLK (NNS) -- Twenty-two fifth-graders from Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE)-Atlantis, visited the "Dragon Whales" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Sept. 30.
STARBASE is an outreach program that partners with the Navy to expose children to real world math and science through experiments in aviation and space-related fields. A part of the program allows students to interact with Navy units like HSC 28 to see aviation activities on site.
"[Engineers] build the world that we live in. They built your school, your IPOD, the roads we drive on, and the helicopter that I fly in," said Cmdr. Todd Ghilchrist, commanding officer of HSC 28. "It is important [to] understand what engineers do because we need most of you to grow up dreaming, designing and building the future!"
Increasing positive interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers forms the basis for STARBASE tours of Navy activities.
"Visits like these are always great," said Laura Bennett, director of STARBASE, Virginia. "Students get a chance to hear from men and women who are in the actual careers that they chose. It makes more of an impression on them than just hearing mom and dad or teachers say how important math and science are."
The visit began with a 20 minute talk about the physics of aviation. The students and Lt. Travis Reed, a helicopter pilot assigned to HSC 28, discussed the difference between helicopters and jets. They talked about the importance and use of survival equipment. Reed showed them an aviation survival vest. He pulled out a small bottle in the vest that contained oxygen and explained how it was used in emergencies.
After seeing a classmate dress up in an aviator's flight suit and helmet, the students plugged their ears with yellow foam protection and toured the helo hangar, where they each got a chance to sit in the cockpit of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter.
They touched control devices that resembled video game joy sticks and learned which one takes the helo up and down, and which one moves it back and forth.
Once the students learned the purpose of power levers they returned to a Q&A session that began with their interest in weapons.
They wanted to know want kind of guns the helicopter pilot uses. But to their surprise they heard about the real mission of the helicopter squadron. Reed told them about bringing help to people in distress, providing the transport of medical doctors and dentists to other countries and carrying groceries and supplies to ships that are at sea for long periods of time.
"It was exactly the message that these kids needed to hear," exclaimed Bennett. "They needed to learn the other side of the military...about the humanitarian help."
STARBASE is a an ongoing five week course that selects fifth-grade students from surrounding schools, to learn math, science and technology hands-on through goal-setting projects, experimental learning and team work. During the final days the students visit a STEM type career field to see how their classroom lessons apply in the world.
"STARBASE-Atlantis is a wonderful program, providing an opportunity for young minds to explore," said Gilchrist. "That is why we invite these students to visit the squadron, to see other options, to ask their questions, and talk to Sailors about their jobs. And [the students] also remind us that we do have some really cool jobs."
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