09:35 AM

Texas Squadron Teams with STARBASE to Advance STEM

Maj. Steven Alvarez
Public Affairs Officer

Pegasus Composite Squadron
Texas Wing

Two organizations with similar missions officially joined forces in 2020 after spending the last few years informally assisting each other.

STARBASE Austin, a Texas National Guard youth education program, and the Texas Wing’s Pegasus Composite Squadron operate next door to each other at Camp Mabry.

The relationship between the two organizations started when Maj. Bob Morris began teaching aerospace science classes to STARBASE students at the Pegasus facility. Morris was a natural fit for the STARBASE program, designed to increase at-risk elementary students’ interest, knowledge and skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“The mission of STARBASE to nurture a network of STEM collaborators and the youth development mission of Civil Air Patrol are a perfect fit for each other,” said Patrick Yonnone, Texas STARBASE director. “As neighbors on Camp Mabry, we’ve known about each other and collaborated informally, particularly with Bob Morris, for years.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, STARBASE Austin and the Pegasus squadron have found a way to work more closely and collaborate on a more formal basis. Participants say the relationship will benefit both organizations, but more importantly, the kids they serve.

The agreement lets the Pegasus squadron host some of its classroom training at STARBASE, as its ranks have increased beyond its normal facilities’ capacity. But the arrangement goes far beyond just shared classroom space.

“I stopped over to say hi to Patrick and to see how things were going, and we got to talking,” said Maj. Dennis Eibe, the squadron’s deputy commander. “I happened to mention the trouble we were having in getting three or four laptops donated to our squadron. I had been trying for over 15-plus month.”

Eibe and Yonnone’s minutes-long conversation wound up remedying several longstanding problems for the Pegasus squadron.

First, Yonnone agreed to share STARBASE’s W-Fi signal with the squadron, which had been hampered by connectivity issues. Yonnone then mentioned to Eibe that he had extra laptops he was willing to share.

“These 16 laptops are all 8G, which is critical for the success of our CyberPatriot team,” Eibe said. “This means that we now have more powerful laptops for our cadets to use and can therefore become hopefully significantly more competitive in future competitions.”

In addition, senior members in the squadron office can work more efficiently without worrying about intermittent Wi-Fi signals.

“There is no cost to CAP or the squadron,” Eibe said. “This is purely done through the gracious goodness of Patrick Yonnone and his team.

In return, STARBASE Austin will report the Pegasus squadron’s CyberPatriot program participation as a STARBASE 2.0 program, so the cadets involved will be aggregated into STARBASE’s reporting of program participation.

Yonnone hopes the pilot program can be used to expand the interconnectedness of both STARBASE and Civil Air Patrol with local STEM networks.”

“Red tape has prevented us from a more formal partnership and being able to share resources for years,” Yonnone said.

“I would give Dennis all the credit for not giving up on finding a good solution until we determined that the memorandum of understanding/cooperative agreement would allow us to partner effectively. This timing also coincided with the replacement of our computer lab, so things aligned nicely,” he added.

During the laptop handover in October, Yonnone asked Eibe if the squadron could use an electronic board with a projector and speakers since STARBASE had just received two newer models. Eibe happily accepted, and Yonnone also passed down some Wi-Fi hardware and a couple of dozen folding chairs from STARBASE.

“I am personally very passionate about STEM education and believe that when programs cooperate students benefit far more than if the programs are not connected,” Yonnone said.

"It is personally satisfying to help Pegasus, because I am personally a big fan of CAP, but also students gain, more use is made out of our resources, the STARBASE program gets to claim a larger network and more students impacted, and we get to grow/develop a relationship with a neighboring STEM program – so there is a ton of benefit for anyone touched by our agreement with Pegasus.”