STEM Competition Links Army to Hi-Tech Schools
March 14, 2013
PHOENIX - Mentioning STEM subjects to some Phoenix area high school students equates to uttering profanity. Students understand that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important subjects of their secondary school curriculum, but they sometimes don't see their practical application outside the classroom. Ten80 Education, U.S. Army Racing and the Phoenix Army Recruiting Battalion are determined to change that negative perception of STEM through the Student Racing Challenge.
Students from nine area highs schools were recent guests of the Army at the Firebird Raceway in Chandler as part of the National Hot Rod Association Arizona Nationals. Ten80 and Army Racing used the platform to transform the math and science students into race car owners.
The students weren't competing head-to-head against Tony Schumacher and the Army sponsored Schumacher Racing team on the Firebird track, but they faced the challenges of designing, promoting and racing a radio controlled 1:10-scale car against their high school peers.
The organization's name is derived from the significance of the equation 1,080 or 3 x 360. In a gyroscopic model, when a circle travels on three axes it can provide a 360 view in every direction. The program was designed by scientists, teachers, professors and parents united "to help students and teachers understand STEM subjects, STEM careers and how they affect the world around us," according to the organization's mission statement. Ten80 provides a "supplemental STEM curriculum and annual competition league that helps young people practice being future professionals," said organizers of the program. Army recruiters benefit from the program by have greater access to the schools and mentoring the students as they progress throughout the year-long run of the Ten80 program.
"We welcome any educational program that excites young men and women toward STEM careers," said Lt. Col. Jennifer McAfee, commander of the Phoenix Army Recruiting Battalion. "The Army would not be the most sophisticated and technologically advanced force in the world if it were not for STEM. It is fitting that we partner with schools for a common mission. That mission is to get more students involved in STEM activities."
Ten80 Education President Terri Stripling admits that the Army sponsorship brought some trepidation from educators. "When they hear that the Army is a sponsor, some people ask us, 'What are you doing with them? Are they there to recruit?'" Stripling said. "Our answer is that the Army, like any high tech entity, is there to support their education and to help teach our students about great career options."
Stripling says it's an easy sell to convince educators that the Army is an ideal partner. "The Army needs smart, motivated, leadership quality students just like any company out there," Stripling said. "They get that and open their doors to the Army sponsorship and support."
Stripling points out that, "the Army is inherently interesting and cool. It's also scary and sometimes people are wary of that for a number of reasons." It's up to the recruiters to ease the reluctance educators might have toward the Army, Stripling says. "Interacting with these Soldiers, and seeing the technology they work with breaks down a lot of misconceptions and perceptions people hold about a military that they have little or no connection," Stripling said.
The reward for the Army recruiting efforts is the continuity of the Ten80 program, according to Stripling. "The greatest benefit to the Army I've seen is that high-achieving students and teachers are interacting with Soldiers seamlessly," Stripling said. "They are hearing the 'Army story' in a safe space with open minds."
Stripling says that the project is team-based, "and this fits well with the Army Strong message of the Army being one team with individuals taking the initiative."
The seamless interaction of Soldier mentorship with the sponsoring schools is built into the Ten80 program. That interaction translates to better recruiter access to the high schools. The Phoenix event at Firebird Raceway was the kickoff event for the local program. This event afforded recruiters the opportunity to meet the students and teachers in an off-campus fun environment. Next up for the program is the kit delivery segment that allows recruiters the chance to hand-deliver the STEM curriculum to the schools.
Educators then go through a two-day teacher training seminar that includes recruiters and incorporates Army tech subject materials that are relevant to the curriculum. The Ten80 program wraps up with the Spring Regional Competition, where winners earn an invitation and sponsorship to the National Finals held in May. Eight of the nine local high schools at the Firebird Raceway event already signed on to the Ten80 Education program.
Interested schools can compete in the Ten80 program by contacting the organization directly at 1.855.Ten80Ed or by downloading information at the Ten80 website. The Ten80 organization also offers fundraising assistance for financially challenged school districts.
The Phoenix race was good news for the Army sponsored Don Schumacher Racing, with son Tony winning the weekend event and chalking up his 70th career NHRA victory.