OGDEN — Roughly 350 fifth-grade students from Davis and Weber Counties spent the day March 9 simulating a distant planet colonization during a “Mission to Mars” Science, Technology, Engineering and Math event at Weber State University.
The well-established event is hosted in partnership with Hill Air Force Base and Weber State University. Military and civilian Airmen from Hill Air Force Base STEM fields volunteered to help the students construct a “livable” habitat for life on Mars.
Prior to the event, students spent time in their classrooms learning about Mars, telecommunications and life support systems. They also designed mission uniforms and patches.
During the event, teamwork was emphasized.
“This program encourages teamwork, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in all areas of engineering,” said Allison Sturgeon, STEM program manager at Hill AFB. “Maybe some of them will start dreaming about becoming astronauts, engineers or computer scientists. Maybe if we inspire them, it will make them want to take those harder math and science classes. If they have a reason, it makes a huge difference.”
Students formed 21 separate teams, each with representatives from three different schools. Each team then built a habitat consisting of pre-cut plastic sheets and duct tape. After inflation via box fans, all 21 structures were connected with tunnels to create the final colony.
Dana Dellinger, director of WSU Center for Technology Outreach, lauded the Airmen and civilians from Hill AFB who served as colony commanders, helping to organize construction efforts.
“We love partnering with Hill Air Force Base STEM programs to bring exciting educational opportunities to our local school students,” said Dellinger. “This is another excellent event that brings our schools, community and university together to benefit everyone.”
The event is a way for the Air Force to reach the community as well as inspire future Air Force engineers.
“We are spending so much money recruiting, trying to get more and more people to come work for us because we hire over 200 computer scientists and engineers every year,” Sturgeon said. “The demand for that group of graduates is huge all over the country, so we need to do all we can to inspire as many kids as possible to go into the sciences so hopefully they can work for us one day.”