AAFB Airmen pave way for future engineers

  • Published
  • By Judy Mott
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing

Having top-notch education opportunities for families is a major priority. Therefore, Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, supports its two main public school districts, a private school, and 10 other more rural districts in numerous ways. One of those rural districts is Frederick Public Schools. Located in Tillman County, Frederick defied odds and built an amazing robotics program for their students. 

In support of that program and as part of the Altus AFB Science Technology Engineering and Math Council, Airmen from the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron paid a visit to Frederick High School robotics students to share information on their engineering tracks and journeys. For more than an hour, 30 high school robotics students had one-on-one time with engineers who shared their stories, answered questions, and gave advice. 

One of the presenters, Capt. Ryan Yeargin, 97th CES engineering flight section commander, explained how he was grateful for the opportunity. 

“My experience could have shaped the opinion of any student in the room,” he said. “Maybe I persuaded someone to stick with engineering, maybe I steered someone towards the Air Force. That’s the beauty of community outreach, you never know who you may inspire.”

Jaci Skinner, a builder and engineer on the robotics team, is a senior at FHS who plans to major in mechanical engineering.  She stayed after the presentation to get advice from the engineers and admitted, “I wasn’t even considering the military. Now I am.”   

Likewise, Amery Newton, a 10th grader and a programmer for her robotics team, was excited to hear about the Air Force Academy’s options. “This opened my eyes to the different aspects of engineering in the military. I didn’t realize there was such a wide span of opportunities within one area of engineering.”

Earlier this school year, the Altus AFB STEM Council hosted FHS robotics students for a STEM-based tour of Altus AFB. At that time, base personnel with whom they interacted were impressed with the caliber of these students, and it was the same this time for the visiting engineers.  

Maj. Dustin Gooden, a 97th CES engineer who is currently working as an executive for the wing commander, thought highly of the audience.

“The most inspiring part of this trip is the dedication and enthusiasm that the students showed towards their craft throughout our visit,” he said. “I enjoyed the platform to interact with the students, and hopefully interest them to continue pursuing a background in engineering.”

The students’ coach, Tom Hensley, a retired Air Force air traffic controller, reached out asking for the engineers to visit with hopes that it will become an annual event. 

“I want my students not to close their minds—anything is possible,” he said. “I also want them to see how important the problem solving and working together is.”  

For more information on the Altus AFB STEM Council, please contact Judy Mott, the 97th Force Support Squadron School Liaison Program Manager and STEM Representative at judith.mott@us.af.mil.