TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Tinker Engineers and Scientists Leadership Association at Tinker Air Force Base is working closely with about 20 youth, ages 14-20, who have joined Tinker’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Explorer Post.
The co-ed STEM Explorer Post was organized in September by Tinker AFB’s TESLA volunteers. Co-leaders of the troop, Capt. Sean Stephens and Julie Marasco, agree the Nov. 20 tour of a powered-up E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft stirred up plenty of excitement among attendees.
Stephens is one of the lead advisors with the 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 552nd AMXS is part of the 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Group that maintains the E-3 Sentry aircraft at Tinker AFB.
He said some of the Tinker STEM Explorer Post troop’s parents also attended so they could share the experience of boarding an E-3 Sentry and visit the maintenance complex.
“We wanted to change up the pace a little,” Stephens said. “They’ve been learning a computer programming language known as C Sharp or ‘C#’ for the past several weeks, so we wanted to show them the maintenance complex.”
He said he secured some maintainers, a radar troop and a pilot to talk to the troop and their parents during the evening event.
“They had a lot of questions about the jet,” Stephens said. “They’re super smart kids and the Tinker STEM Explorer Post is also about learning how to become leaders and public speakers. I believe this is a way for organizations at Tinker AFB to get involved and give back to the community.”
He said mentoring the next generation about the work performed at Tinker AFB helps provide students with insights into how the aerospace industry works.
“They could be working in this industry or they could be the next military officer. They could perhaps be in the private sector or a related career field in engineering or maintenance,” Stephens said. “The STEM Explorer Post peaks their interest, teaches them some cool lessons and they love it.”
He said he’s repeated some of the exercises he went through when he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which helps him to co-lead the troop with Marasco.
Recently promoted to a repair engineering chief for the 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group, Marasco said the 76th PMXG focuses on the repair of aircraft engines at Tinker AFB.
She said the Tinker STEM Explorer Post recently elected officers, which is another step toward independence for the young STEM enthusiasts.
“This is the first time I’ve mentored youth,” Marasco said. “It’s a really new experience watching them learn because they’re just like sponges. When I was their age, I don’t think I was doing (this type) of neat stuff.”
She said area youth aren’t always exposed to or become interested in STEM-related activities early on in their academic careers, but Tinker’s STEM Explorer Post program provides “the cool stuff they could be doing” if they join the post.
“When I heard about it, I thought this is a great way to show young people many of the opportunities available in STEM fields,” Marasco said. “Another reason I want to help lead the troop is to be a really good role model for young women because there are not enough female engineers.
“Plus, I really enjoy being able to see the enthusiasm they have for STEM as they get better at it. We’re introducing them to things they’ve never encountered and it makes me happy to hear when they’ve decided to go into STEM-related careers.”
Tinker’s STEM Explorer Post meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the base. For more information about joining or volunteering, call 505-7984.