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FEATURE STEM WEEK EVENT: Frontier STEM Hub-Malheur ESD, OSU Extension & Treasure Valley Community College Lift Malheur County Sixth Graders with Immersive Aviation STEM Field Day

Ontario, Oregon – On Thursday, May 6, at 8:45 a.m., all 401 youths in sixth grade in Malheur County will take off into one of the most hands-on, interactive learning days they’ve seen in their young lives. An educational flight that is the result of a collaboration among Frontier STEM Hub-Malheur ESD (FSH), OSU Extension (OSUE) and Treasure Valley Community College (TVCC), Malheur Youth STEM Field Day, “Explore the Journey,” purposefully takes place in two locations, in a hangar at the Ontario airport and at TVCC. (The hangar is owned by Frazier Aviation, an industry partner to the three groups.) Organizers of the event wanted students to be out in the field, learning about the web of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) aviation careers directly from the professionals who do this work and use STEM skills every day, through hands-on activities and demonstrations onsite.


As Barbara Brody, 4H & Family Community Health Extension Agent for OSUE said, “When students think about becoming a pilot or entering a technical field in this area, it sounds distant and perhaps difficult. Maybe they just don’t have any experience with it at all.” She continued, “But when students get out and hear from people they recognize as someone just like themselves who are already doing this type of work, and having enjoyment and success, they are inspired. They think, ‘Yes, I can do it, too!’” In fact, one of the speakers is a woman pilot, who started her career being told that girls don’t become pilots. She will be sharing her story, another living example to the girls in attendance.


The STEM Field Day day was planned by the three partners in a way that shows students the wide variety of the types of STEM jobs and STEM skills that are associated with just one field, aviation, whether is be mechanic, medical professional, engineer, electrician, retail, or instructor. The kids start the day (broken up into two groups) either at TVCC or at the airport, and switch halfway through. At the airport, they will hear from a medic who works on Life Flights, learn about electric circuitry from a pilot, talk with an individual who makes his own propeller blades, and interact with a helicopter pilot who started his own spraying business, among others. As Nickie Shira, STEM & Innovation Coordinator, Frontier STEM Hub reflected, “For many students today, ‘science’ and ‘math’ are separate subjects they do at school and that’s it. They don’t understand how they are interrelated or how they even apply to real life. They need opportunities to connect what they learn to the real world. When they do, it can have a tremendous impact on their futures! We want students to walk away from the Malheur Youth STEM Aviation Field Day with a new excitement for STEM learning.”


Along with a robotics demonstration and investigations into engineering, physics principles, aeronautics and flying (disguised as a cool day at the airfield), students will also be at TVCC for half a day, learning about college and career readiness, and how they attain the right mix of STEM skills and educational level to reach their career goals. As Brody remarked, “Part of STEM Field Day takes place at a college, inside the buildings. Instead of thinking about college as something perhaps faraway, or unattainable, the students can look back on their day and see themselves on a campus in their mind’s eye. It’s a powerful touchstone.”


ABOUT Frontier Oregon STEM Hub: The Frontier Oregon STEM Hub is developing the collaborative partnerships between P-20 students of Malheur County and surrounding area, with the local workforce needs of STEM and CTE partners, through the active engagement and participation in STEM and CTE related experiential learning.


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Melissa Dubois is the South Metro-Salem Hub STEM Director. The South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership (SMSP) is a collaboration of school districts, community colleges, universities, out-of-school programs and business and community partners that is focused on increasing student access and success in STEM fields.