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The Academy’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Outreach Program exists to engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent through K-12 programs. Faculty and cadets work with the local community, schools and teachers to provide outreach and increase the effectiveness of the Air Force’s investment in STEM. Cadets have the opportunity to mentor the next generation of potential cadets through involvement in these efforts.


What does the STEM Outreach Program offer?

STEM Friday Lessons

STEM Fridays are free hands-on robotics or engineering lessons for elementary students. The USAFA STEM Outreach Coordinator will come to local classrooms with all of the materials necessary for each lesson. Classroom teachers must be present during the 45 to 90 minute lessons and active in assisting students.

Solar Cars 45 min

Following a study of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, 4th or 5th grade students might enjoy making solar powered cars.

Ozobots 45 min

Ozobots are small robots that are programmable through drawn lines and color codes. This engaging activity helps students learn about coding and programming. They are suitable for K-5th grade students.

A Slippery Slope: Engineering an Avalanche Protection System 75 min

Avalanche engineering is the design of technologies that stop the flow of avalanches. In this Engineering is Elementary lesson, students are introduced to a brother and sister team traveling in Peru as well as an avalanche engineer named Jose Pablo. Students work in teams to create an avalanche protection system for a Peruvian village. This unit would complement a study of forces and be suitable for 3rd-5th grade.

To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges 60 min

Civil engineering involves designing and constructing roads, bridges, canals and buildings. This Engineering is Elementary lesson complements a 2nd or 3rd grade science unit on balances and forces. Javier and his little sister Luisa take a tumble off a wobbly bridge leading to Javier’s fort. Students work in groups to create bridges that would help Javier and his sister get to his fort more safely.

Put a Lid on It: Engineering Safety Helmets 60 min

Biochemical engineering is a field that combines mechanical engineering and biology. Engineers use what they know about physics and biology to better understand how physical forces impact living organisms. In this Engineering is Elementary lesson, students work together to create a safety helmet. It is appropriate for grades 3-5.

Owl Pellet Dissection 45 min

Teams of 3 or 4 will dissect an owl pellet and determine what type of animal the owl digested. This activity complements an ecosystems unit and is appropriate for grades 4-5.

Solid as a Rock: Replicating an Artifact 75 min

Materials engineering involves the discovery and design of new materials that are used in many fields. In this Engineering is Elementary lesson, students are introduced to twins residing in Russia, a materials engineer named Mila and an archaeologist. They work in teams to investigate the properties of rocks and create their own petroglyph. This lesson complements a rock cycle unit and is suitable for grades 3-5.

The Sky’s the Limit: Engineering Flying Technologies 75 min

Aeronautical engineering involves designing technologies that fly through earth’s atmosphere such as airplanes, gliders, unmanned aerial vehicles and hot air balloons. In this Engineering is Elementary lesson, students are introduced to kids traveling in the Middle Eastern region known as the Empty Quarter. Students work together in teams to create a flying technology prototype that can hold up to 3 aerial photographers to be used by NASA. This lesson complements a study of forces and is suitable for 3rd-5th grade.

Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills 75 min

Mechanical engineering is a broad branch of engineering that deals with the design, construction and use of machines. In this Engineering is Elementary lesson, students are introduced to children and a mechanical engineer from Denmark. Students work together in teams to design and create blades that would work well for windmills. This lesson complements a study of forces and is appropriate for 1st-3rd grade.



*Other tours available upon request.

Aeronautics Research Center

This lab offers a 30 minute visual tour of four different wind tunnels and an explanation of the cadet capstone design project. A 45-60 minute tour allows attendees to view 7 wind tunnels, a variety of jet engines, the machine shop, cadet workshop and design classroom. This tour does not offer hands-on activities and the machines are not operational during tours. It is best suited for middle school to adult attendees.

Air Force CyberWorx

After viewing a model city called “Cyber-city,” participants gain understanding of a human-centered methods approach to design thinking as it pertains to Air Force cyber challenges. This tour is best suited for high school and adult attendees.

CAStLE Research Center

This lab provides a visual tour of how Newtonian physics are applied to the design, fabrication and facility of aircraft. Shops included in the tour are wood, metal, fabrication and automotive. This lab also conducts corrosion and metal properties research. Distinguished cadet capstone projects are displayed. This visit is appropriate for middle school age to adult attendees.

Chemistry Research Center

Elementary and middle school attendees are treated to a Chemistry Magic Show and a hands-on lab activity. High School students and adults receive a 30 minute tour of the Chemistry Labs. The research team focuses on preparing functionalized polymer and hybrid polymer composites directed toward developing next-generation, high performance materials to meet operational Air Force and Department of Defense needs. Attendees of all ages will enjoy this tour.

Electrical & Computer Engineering Research Center

This visual tour offers a glimpse into the workings of a human-sized, man-machine interfaced BAXTER robot, a robot maze used in cadet competitions, the MARVL lab where cadets build R2D2 type robots, a virtual reality zone and the neuro-wheelchair operated by transmitter goggles. A separate tour offers insight into the effectiveness of AFA solar panels, a look at 3D printers and interaction with 20 watt hand generators and squishy circuits. Middle school – adult attendees are welcome.

Computer Science Demonstrations

Faculty and cadets demonstrate NAO and Pepper robots. The NAO robots are programmed to exercise, dance, stretch, tell stories and play games. Pepper carries on a conversation and creates music with attendees. This demonstration is exciting for all age attendees.

Human Performance Lab

The Human Performance Laboratory applies sports science principles to improve Academy athletic teams and individual cadet performance. It also provides subject matter expertise on the Air Force Fitness Program and human performance offering scientific data through research and exercise physiology principles. The AFA Human Performance Lab is one of the top exercise physiology centers in the United States. Upper elementary to adult attendees would enjoy this tour.

Physics Research Center

This tour offers a PowerPoint presentation of the 5 physics research centers: Astronomical Research Group and Observatory, Laser & Optics Research Center, Center for Space Situational Awareness, Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center and the Center for Physics Education Research. If time permits, attendees are invited to view the labs. It is best suited for middle school to adult attendees.

Space Systems Research Center

This tour allows participants to view FalconSAT satellites and hear a brief history of the program. Other sections of the tour include: the FalconSAT simulator room, the machine shop where models and structures are created and the clean room where spacecraft are assembled. A hybrid rocket demo is possible if time and personnel permits. The tour is appropriate for upper elementary to adult attendees.

Planetarium & STEM Center

Starting in the spring of 2019, K-20 students will be able to attend complimentary shows covering topics such as astronomy, robotic explorers and fighter pilots. For more information, visit the Planetarium’s website or call planetarium director at (719) 333-3361.

USAFA Astronomy

Once a month, faculty and cadets from the Astronomy Club host groups for 1 to 2 hours after sunset. Participants use telescopes to observe constellations.
This event is available for upper elementary to adult attendees.
Periodically upper elementary to adult groups can schedule an evening Planetarium and star gazing experience


Lending Library

Individuals, organizations or groups may check out STEM related equipment for up to a 6 week period. Items in the STEM Lending Library include molecular model sets, portable spectrometers, portable wind tunnels, Lego Mindstorms EV3s, Lego WeDo 2.0 kits, Little Bits, Spheros, Bee Bots, BB-8 robots, Ozobots, Contraptions, Code-a-pillars, Dash & Dot, Cubelets, Makey-Makey sets, Snap Circuits, Vernier Lab Quest probes, Rube Goldberg kits and digital and compound microscopes.

STEM Presentations / STEM Fridays

When available, Air Force Academy staff and faculty travel to schools and various organizational meetings to present interactive and engaging STEM presentations. The STEM Coordinator will conduct free, hands-on science, engineering or robotics lessons for elementary classrooms on Fridays.

Support for local STEM Events

Cadets are permitted to miss one class per semester so daytime event availability is limited. Events after 4:00PM or on Saturdays are easier to accommodate. Cadet clubs supporting STEM outreach include:
• Female cadets – Girls in the Middle
• STEM Club
• Robotics Club
• Astronomy Club
• Falconry Club


Lt Col Donald Rhymer
Associate Dean of Research
(719) 333-4195

For additional information or to request STEM support, contact:

Sandy Lamb
STEM Outreach Coordinator
(719) 333-8990