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NEWS | April 20, 2022

DMA COO visits Winchester STARBASE Academy

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, Virginia Department of Military Affairs Chief Operations Officer, visited students taking part in activities at the Winchester STARBASE Academy April 5, 2022, at the Virginia National Guard's Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center in Winchester, Virginia. During the visit, students took part in lessons on building carbon dioxide-powered cars, robotics and chemistry. “The more time I spend around the STARBASE program, the more I come to appreciate the positive impacts it has on so many young people that attend the program each year,” Mercer said. “Our partnership with several local school districts as well as some of the private schools in the area allows us to serve a wide variety of students in the state.” Mercer said focusing on students from a lower socio-economic situation who often do not get exposure to such state of the art STEM programs with high quality resources and professional instruction in areas like robotics, physics, coding or 3-D printing is a win for the commonwealth and for these students. “STARBASE provides a great teaching staff, DoD funded resources and a hands on STEM  lab setting that combine to create the perfect learning environment,” he said.  STARBASE is Congressionally authorized as a Department of Defense Civil Military Program where licensed instructors provide 25 hours of hands-on, rigorous and real-world experiences in a high-tech environment over five days. The goal is to inspire and educate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and expand their awareness of future STEM careers while providing a model and vision for STEM education to local school districts and educators. For the current school year, the academy supported 15 area schools from three public school districts and will also support four private schools and a home school group, explained Dr. Susan Corrigan, the Winchester STARBASE Academy director. More than 1,300 students in 60 classes participated in the 5-day program. Corrigan said the staff also ran a STARBASE 2.0 afterschool middle school program during Spring 2022 where they went to James Wood Middle School and worked with 24 students with a variety of technology lessons for 13 weeks. The VNG’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team serves as the host unit for STARBASE, and Soldiers provide a facility tour and answer questions about military service during each class. “I am proud of what we do, and the impact we have on students and am very fortunate to have such a supportive host unit!,” Corrigan said. This summer, the STARBASE staff has a full schedule with five full-week classes, STEM lessons at seven summer camp programs with Frederick County in June and will support the National Guard Youth Camp and ChalleNGe in July. They will also lead a STARBASE 3.0 program with high school JROTC cadets using a robot they will build and program. 

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