JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
The Department of Defense selected 12 awardees for the National Defense Education Program Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) awards. Trident Technical College (TTC) in Charleston, South Carolina, was one of those awarded and partnered with Joint Base Charleston, which sub-awards $134K to the base to split between Civil Air Patrol initiatives and the 628th Force Support Squadron’s child and youth programs.
The grant will be spread out over a three year period and will help the base as well as TTC increase interest and help initiate more STEM programs in the community and on base.
“When we started building the program it wasn’t to build a new flashy thing,” said Capt. Blake Hege, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness and Emergency Management flight commander and STEM program manager. “It was to engage the base into the local STEM community to show the career fields we offer with STEM components.”
While the grant is STEM-oriented, Hege said he hopes it can also be used to get the local youth and community not only interested in STEM, but also in DoD career fields with STEM related jobs.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to open peoples’ eyes to the things you can accomplish with creativity in technology and engineering,” said Hege. “I’m hoping this affects the youth of Joint Base Charleston, they can go to Trident’s STEM camps, there’s going to be new programs at the youth center, all kinds of stuff the K-12 youth of the base can get involved with.”
Not only were the efforts between the base and TTC a community partnership, but also a group endeavor within units on the base.
“It was a real team effort to get it done,” said Charles Beam, 628th Air Base Wing executive director. “We had people from finance helping, people from legal making sure we were doing things the right way and we all did it in a short amount of time too.”
The grant will also help not just members of the base, but also underprivileged youth of the community.
“Probably the coolest part of the grant to me is there is about a $700k line item that Trident is going to hold on to that they’ll use to reach out to underserved communities and military youth,” said Hege. “So over the next three years we’ll be able to advertise STEM camps put on by Trident that will be of no cost to those families.”
With STEM recently rebranding to “STEAM,” adding arts to the program, Hege hopes there will be even more interest in the program and related career fields.
“I’m a huge fan of education in general, there’s a new shift from STEM to STEAM where the A is for ‘arts’ which I never really understood until I thought about how people with this knowledge can now be inspired by the element of creativity that comes with art,” said Hege. “It creates such big value to this movement.”