12:15 PM

Conn. Wing Provides Middle School STEM Instruction

Capt. Olga Simoncelli
Public Affairs Officer
Connecticut Wing

The Connecticut Wing stepped up to provide STEM instruction for middle school students in a pair of public schools, thanks to an agreement with the Connecticut Military Department.

The state’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Francis J. Evon Jr., called on Col. James A. Ridley Sr., Connecticut Wing commander, for assistance in implementing the Military Department’s involvement with the U.S. Department of Defense’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program known as STARBASE.

STARBASE was originally designed to expose elementary school students to state-of-the-art hands-on STEM activities, specifically focused on the physics of flight. Air National Guard personnel in several states promoted and operated the program, which eventually expanded to include middle school students.

Evon and Connecticut Wing officials signed a letter of understanding this winter to pilot the promotion of an after-school six- to seven-week STEM-based program in Connecticut.


The two schools selected for the project were Jumoke Academy in Hartford and Duggan Elementary in Waterbury, which extends through eighth grade.

Student projects overseen by wing members included making paper airplanes to observe differences in flight based on adjusting various controls on the airplane or by adding weight, and, later, flying propeller-driven STEM kit planes. Students also designed and assembled STEM kit helicopters, experimented with drones and examined gyroscope actions.

As expected, the children’s favorite lessons were those involving hands-on and building activities.

The program culminated with a special graduation trip Dec. 7 to Waterbury-Oxford Airport, where the students were treated to a display of two CAP Cessnas and a tour of the control tower. One of the CAP planes on display was the very first civil aircraft to fly near the Twin Towers the day after the 9/11 attacks, when it conducted an aerial photography mission over Ground Zero.

Students encountered various airplane controls and monitors from inside the cockpit. Based on their curious and intelligent questions, they clearly had absorbed a good deal from the program.

“Our students were very engaged in all of the activities,” said Melissa Di Giovanni, Duggan vice principal. “It gave them an opportunity to get involved in aviation and explore a variety of careers related to the field.”

Those involved are looking forward to the second phase and potential expansion of this program this spring.

“I am thrilled to initiate the relationship with STARBASE-CT,” Ridley said. “This is a win-win for all, and I look forward to seeing this program move into the next phase of its evolution!”