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JBA’s Center of Innovation makes learning fun

A solar panel toy car build by students in the Center of Innovation at the Youth Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 6, 2018. The COI was transformed in 2015 after receiving funding from the Boys and Girls Club of America and Raytheon to accommodate lessons in science, technology, engineering and math.

A solar panel toy car build by students in the Center of Innovation at the Youth Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 20, 2018. The COI was transformed in 2015 after receiving funding from the Boys and Girls Club of America and Raytheon to accommodate lessons in science, technology, engineering and math. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jalene A. Brooks)


Zariah Dunn and Nia Jackson, students at the Center of Innovation asses’ instructions before building a solar panel toy car at the Youth Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 6, 2018. The COI was transformed in 2015 after receiving funding from the Boys and Girls Club of America and Raytheon to accommodate lessons in science, technology, engineering and math.
SLIDESHOW | 3 images | students read instruction manuals Zariah Dunn and Nia Jackson, students at the Center of Innovation asses’ instructions before building a solar panel toy car at the Youth Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 20, 2018. The COI was transformed in 2015 after receiving funding from the Boys and Girls Club of America and Raytheon to accommodate lessons in science, technology, engineering and math. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jalene A. Brooks)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- In the last three years, the STEM room, as students call it, has become littered with products of informed creative freedom. Decorations produced with 3-D printers line the walls. Popsicle-stick renditions of the Eiffel Tower and World Trade Center sit on table tops. Scribbled on a dry-erase board is an ever-populated list of names dictating who will be next to virtually pilot an F-22 Raptor using either of the two flight simulators.

Kids at the Joint Base Andrews Youth Center have had the opportunity to indulge in these resources and more as they partake in activities involving science, technology, engineering, and math in the Center of Innovation.

Matrice Adger, the Youth Center’s assistant director, takes pride in the program’s ability to facilitate activities that prepare students to excel in the work place of the future.

“We live in a world of constant change where new ideas, technology and inventions make major impacts in society and the world,” Adger said. “Exposing our children to these new developments and instilling a thirst for inventing is crucial to preparing them for success in tomorrow’s workforce.”

During the past summer, campers completed a plethora of unique projects including making dried ice, slime, solar-panel toy cars, lip-balm, eyeball replicas, cardboard elevators and they made smoothies using a bicycle blender.

Shannon Garrett, the program’s STEM activity coordinator, is responsible for planning and orchestrating these learning activities and projects. She said she strives to encourage her campers not only to engage in these subjects, but how to overcome any roadblocks they may encounter while learning and creating new things.

“Learning is a necessity of life,” said Garrett. “I want them to know that although not everything is going to work out the first time, keep trying and never give up.”

Gerald Holden Jr., a 12-year-old camper in the Youth Center’s summer program, said that while at the camp he prefers doing STEM activities over playing the sports.

“When I get to [the Youth Center], I choose the STEM room,” Holden said “I feel excited every time I come to camp because I get to make new things and try them out. They’ve taught me that if you try hard and put your mind to it you can get anything done.”

Accomplishing many of these projects required students to learn to work in teams, follow written and verbal instructions, delegate responsibilities fairly, and communicate effectively to solve problems amongst themselves. 

“My most favorite part of the STEM room is making fun things with my friends,” said Trinity Raymond, a 12-year-old camper in the Youth Center’s summer program. “This is the most friends I’ve made since I got here.”

Adger has regarded the COI as her "project child" since she started the search for funding that was finally granted in 2015. That funding will soon expire, she said, so she has since been actively searching for alternate avenues to ensure kids at JBA have a place to entertain and exercise their excellence.

“We never know,” Adger said. “We may be inspiring the next prominent scientists, inventors, artists, doctors or engineers. These kids could make major impacts in the world.”