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Research Area 16: Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM)

The AFRL Munitions Directorate serves the Department of the Air Force (DAF) STEM research mission directly, which in turn addresses the nation’s impending shortfall in the STEM workforce. Munitions Directorate members have individually performed a wide variety of STEM outreach tasks at both local and national levels as part of their professional commitment to the community for many years. The Munitions Directorate K-12 STEM Outreach program seeks to sustain and expand STEM outreach throughout the local area as well as the greater southeast region. Nationally, the AFRL Munitions Directorate maintains a solid, robust internship program which brings students into the laboratory environment to directly benefit Directorate research and provide maximum exposure to students across a broad spectrum of educational backgrounds. Students conduct relevant, necessary research during an internship which focuses on areas of critical need in Directorate technology development. The Munitions Directorate’s STEM Outreach focus is to address DAF and DoD goals to enhance the quality of K-12 STEM education and encourage greater numbers of US citizen high school graduates to pursue college degrees, certifications, and careers in STEM. The STEM Outreach program also seeks to increase diversity in STEM by specifically addressing communities that have traditionally been underserved by STEM as well as students who are underrepresented in STEM degree programs, certifications, and careers.

The Munitions Directorate STEM Outreach office brings the extensive facilities of the directorate, the technical talents of its researchers and its leadership role in the community and nation to partnerships with universities, technical schools, K-12 school systems, nonprofit foundations, professional and industry societies, and other agencies in Northwest Florida. These partnerships provide K-12 teachers and students in Northwest Florida with rich and wide experiences in STEM, including:

  • Training of K-12 educators, with emphasis on improved methods of organizing and providing coherent curriculum packages.
  • “Kindle the fire of curiosity” experiences for younger K-12 students and teachers, and “sustainment of interest” experiences for older K-12 students and teachers.

STEM outreach activities supported may include providing financial assistance to organizations supporting STEM activities, providing funding and support for national competitions by arranging for DoD personnel to participate as speakers, mentors, coaches, judges, and presenters, providing support for STEM education and outreach conferences, and supporting teacher STEM education and training initiatives. Stipends for teachers undertaking professional training in connection with these activities may be supported as well as funding for the acquisition of materials and resources needed to launch, implement, assess, and improve STEM oriented programs. AFRL encourages the projects and program results to be published in appropriate publications and academic journals at the end of the period of performance. Participants are encouraged to develop innovative approaches that utilize their unique assets, capabilities, locations, and personnel. White papers should identify projects/programs and methods that will be used to foster and develop students in STEM fields that are relevant to the DoD mission.

Keywords: STEM Outreach; Workforce Development; Partnerships.