WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Junior and Senior High School students from all over the region came to Wright-Patterson AFB March 9 to explore various opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics career fields.
The Educational Outreach Office at Wright-Patterson AFB has been hosting a STEM Job Shadowing Day twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, for over 10 years.
This spring’s Job Shadow Day hosted 129 students from 36 schools across the region and was made possible by the help of 26 mentors and 29 co-mentors across various STEM career fields.
“This program gives students a view into the day-to-day activities of STEM professionals and shows the vast amount of STEM careers that Wright-Patterson AFB and the Air Force has to offer,” said Kim Stultz, Job Shadow Day program coordinator.
Students selected career fields based on their current academic interests and were paired up with mentors in those fields. Mentors led groups of two to 20 throughout their work centers giving students a hands on experience.
“I learned a lot today,” said Daniel Katwyk, a Junior at Troy High School, “I have always been interested in engineering, and it has been really cool to see how that applies to the Air Force.”
Prior to Job Shadow Day, mentors developed a curriculum for participants, including tours of their facilities and hands on demonstrations. Students received a first-hand look at the capabilities of Air Force STEM programs and potential career paths.
“It’s important to give students the chance to see what goes on where they normally wouldn’t be able to,” said John Turnbull, a Weather Forecaster with the 88th Operational Support Squadron and Job Shadow Day mentor for over eight years. “No matter what career they go in to, it’s one thing to read about it at school but it’s another thing to get their hands dirty and see what people actually do on the job. It gives them a different perspective.”
Turnbell led a group of eight students interested in meteorology through the WPAFB weather forecast center. Students saw various weather models and technologies in live time and toured the air field control tower to see how the products from the forecasting center are used in real life flight operations.
“It can help spark interest, we show them military weather, but we also tell them about the different fields such as forensics, television, and private industry,” said Turnbell. “We give them not only a taste of what we do, but also let them know that there’s so much more out there in the weather career field.”
Programs like Job Shadow Day are an innovative way to offer students a hands on experience in career fields of their interest and pair them with mentors.
“I did a high school summer camp for females in engineering and a couple for research experiences for undergrads, but nothing like this,” said Marie Cox, a Materials Research Engineers here at Wright-Patterson AFB.
Turnbell also highlighted the importance of Job Shadow day and how programs like this have changed since he was in high school.
“We used ‘take your kid to work’ day,” said Turnbell. “The problem is maybe they don’t want to do what their parents do. These kids have a chance to choose what they want to do and who they want to shadow and so today we had a bunch of really excited kids that wanted to learn more about this job.”
Job Shadow Day has proven to be successful in helping guide participants in their future career paths.
“In the fall of my junior year of high school I participated in a job shadow program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said a previous attendee in a letter to the event organizers. “At the time, I was contemplating entering the medical field. I chose to shadow a civilian instructor of medic. This job shadow was the biggest influence upon my current career path. While the actual shadowing only showed me I didn’t want to enter medicine, being on the Air Force Base opened my eyes to the wonders above us all. I realized how enthralled I was with the mysteries held by our universe. Space became a new passion of mine. Following this experience, I started to research possible careers involving space. Aerospace Engineering stood out as the perfect field for me.”
The event is constantly growing and expanding its outreach both with students and on base participants.
“In our group of eight we have students all the way from Dayton to Cleveland,” said John Turnbell.
“Job Shadow Day started with only 25 students each day,” said Kim Stultz, Job Shadow Day program coordinator. “Our largest day had over 300 students.”
The Educational Outreach Office holds multiple events each month that students, parents, and educators can get involved in.
For more information on Job Shadow Day and other STEM events visit http://wpafbstem.com