Wings Over the Rockies and the Sentinel Colorado team up again this year for a third round of unique fun and learning to help inspire the next generation of engineers, mathematicians, coders, artists and pilots.
Wings and The Sentinel are set to host a STEAM For All festival July 14, a chance for kids and their parents to immerse themselves in everything STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) related. The event offers attendees a chance to talk with dozens of leaders in the STEAM field, get hands-on with some of the latest technology, and have an educational experience centered around having some fun.
This year, the event has moved to a summer slot to be part of Wings’ all-Apollo blowout, Apollo-Palooza, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon mission.
But one of the highlights of the days-long event is festival focusing on education and careers that point toward science, technology, arts.
The event allows a rare opportunity for kids and parents interested in careers in science, math, engineering and the arts to interact with individual companies and educators.
“And it’s just plain fun,” said Benjamin Theune, spokesman for Wings museum. “Wings is really a leader along the Front Range in education and we want to continue to provide those opportunities to our guests.”
The museum is the driving force behind a new aeronautics charter school opening this year in Cherry Creek schools on the campus of Centennial Airport.
This year’s event will feature a variety of feature workshops, including ones led by a 50-year veteran of the U.S. space program.
“Girls Who Code” and a focus on robotics point to a STEAM program like no other, organizers say.
For Wings Director of Education April Lanotte, opening doors to everyone interested in STEAM and actively seeking to include kids and youth who might feel excluded from taking advantage of these kinds opportunities is an important mission not just for Wings, but for her as well.
“When I grew up I wanted to be an astronaut. I loved science and space. But growing up in a small town, you’re steered away from that. ‘Being an astronaut is what other people do, why don’t you do this instead?’” Lanotte said about last year’s program. “So I’ve always been passionate about not excluding people from the bigger picture; it takes everybody to a part of this. Everyone has a skill they can bring to (STEAM) careers. There’s a place for everyone in STEAM.”
The event offers several ways for kids to participate. The massive hangar at Wings’ homebase in Lowry will be filled with booths from industry leaders such as United Launch Alliance and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Not only will event goers get a chance to get hands on with exhibits from those companies, they can all learn what working for them could be like and what they’d need to do educationally to get ready for a career, Thune said.
Along with that opportunity, guests will have a chance to sign up for workshops that range in expertise levels and topics. This year, a heavy focus on space parallels the fun surrounding the Apollo 11 anniversary, Lanotte said.
The event will also feature a keynote and other speakers who will discuss the STEAM field and their own experiences.
This year’s prime speaker is Lawrence H. Kuznetz, PhD. Kuznetz is a scientist, inventor entrepreneur and professor, specializing in space-related programs.
He’s joined by Sue Bean and Barbara Cernan Butler, wives of NASA astronauts and educators and STEAM activists in their own rights.
Lanotte said one major focus of every presentation and workshop will be to give kids a way to continue to learn after they’ve left Wings for the day. If a kid finds out that coding is something they love to tackle, Lanotte said they’re going to be provided with multiple outlets for that passion, like online resources for connecting them with locally-based companies that can provide them with new opportunities to learn.
“Every workshop has a what next step, so kids can leave empowered to do more and learn more,” Lanotte said.
While exciting kids about STEAM education is a worthy goal all on its own, Thune said the ripple effect of creating the next generation of leaders in STEAM careers is something that will benefit everyone in the metro area.
In the aerospace industry alone, there will be a need for more than two million employees globally in the next 30 years. And that need for employees is being felt in every STEAM-focused industry.
“The opportunities for (employment) continue to grow. And the question facing everyone in the industry is how do we keep filling the demands that are right here in Colorado,” Theune said. “We know this event is one that both the public and the industry want to be a part of.”
STEAM For All at Wings Over the Rockies
• Noon-4 p.m. Sunday July 14
• Ideal for all children ages 8 and older
• $5 for 17 and older. 16 and younger free.
• Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum 7711 E. Academy Blvd. Lowry/Denver