AFRL partners with New Mexico Army National Guard in STEM aviation event

  • Published
  • By By Jeanne Dailey
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) - The Air Force Research Laboratory New Mexico STEM Academy located on Kirtland AFB recently gave incoming fifth and sixth graders an opportunity to expand their career knowledge by participating in a summer program called DOD STARBASE STEM Camp.

“STARBASE New Mexico is a premier educational program under the sponsorship of the DOD and managed by the AFRL New Mexico STEM Academy,” said Estike Gutierrez, who leads the AFRL program. “Our mission is to increase excitement and knowledge in STEM for New Mexico’s youth, especially in populations underrepresented in the STEM workforce. We are passionate about providing students with stimulating and challenging 'hands-on, mind-on' STEM experiences and activities.”

During the science, technology, engineering and math camps that encompassed two weeks in June, students had opportunities to interact with AFRL scientists and engineers, and to explore careers and observe STEM applications in the real world.

This summer’s program included a partnership with the New Mexico Army National Guard, or NMARNG, in which 25 students from the surrounding community and 25 students from Kirtland AFB families visited the Guard to expand their knowledge, and perhaps even open their minds to a STEM career within the military.

“The AFRL New Mexico STEM Academy calls for volunteers from across Kirtland for flight enthusiasts to speak with our students participating in the DOD STARBASE New Mexico program,” Gutierrez said. “We were excited that this year the Guard suggested we bring the kids to the flight line to tour their Black Hawk helicopter, crawl around, talk to Soldiers and learn more about their mission.”

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charles Boehler, a standardization pilot with the New Mexico Army National Guard 168th Medevac Company, has volunteered with STARBASE for the past four years.
“I see this STEM program as a great opportunity to discuss aviation in general with the kids, and specifically talk about helicopters, since many classes tend to focus on airplanes,” Boehler said. “Interacting on a personal level with the students is the most fun part, and they never fail to impress me with their questions and interest, especially at this particular event where they got to look at a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in person.”
Boehler, who has 35 years of military service, said making kids aware that they can be a part of aviation, engineering or science is important so their knowledge and abilities can grow toward career fields they may have never thought about before.
A three-time volunteer with the AFRL New Mexico STEM Academy, pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Anita Guderjohn is the aviation mission survivability officer in the NMARNG 168th Medevac Company.
“I have enjoyed each experience with the AFRL New Mexico STEM Academy, and have been very impressed with the program and the teachers,” Guderjohn said. “It's really a cool experience to talk with the students about the aviation industry that we are so passionate about. I developed an interest in becoming a pilot when I was very young, and feel honored to have achieved that in my life."

Through the program, Guderjohn said she would like to foster the interest of becoming a pilot with future generations.
“This year’s STARBASE New Mexico summer camp, in partnership with the New Mexico Army National Guard, was among our best programs, and a great opportunity for kids to learn more about STEM in action,” Gutierrez said.
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: