Starbase puts science in motion

Program supports STEM education
Apr. 11, 2014 @ 11:14 AM

More than a decade ago, when manufacturing dominated the Chair City landscape, a program came to  Liberty Drive Elementary School to stress the importance of science, technology, engineering and math.

This new approach to learning — Starbase — would define an approaching millennium. STEM education (science, technology, education and math) is now common practice in public schools and Starbase, now in its 17th year at the school, continues to be an anticipated week-long attraction for fifth graders.

“We do this because the community is so involved,” said Barbara Miller, director of the Starbase program. “From the time we first started until now the growth in the children is just unbelievable and that's due to the people at this school and the things they challenge them with.”

Starbase's two-week 2014 program “Fasten Your Seat Belts” kicked off April 7 with fifth graders participating in hands-on experiments that help define the world around them. Starbase is administered through the Army and National Guard and is composed of certified education and military teachers from the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Starbase is made possible through a partnership with Communities In Schools of Thomasville.

“We're always excited to have them come back every year to work with our kids,” said Susan Upton, CIS site coordinator. “The STEM education is the wave of the future. The kids always look forward to it and all the science experiments they've heard about.”

Aryana Sprouse and other fifth graders in Ashley Lawler's class spent part of their day learning ordered pairs and using circuit boards to plot points in different quadrants. The circuit makes a sound to let students know when they've done the exercise correctly.

All of the Starbase projects are hands-on for the students and allows them to see in motion what they've learned.

“I think it's amazing,” Sprouse said. “I like all these projects and the science stuff.”

Scott Van Newkirk's class learned the ins and out of how airplanes take flight, the laws of gravity and Bernoulli's principle on fluid dynamics. To see these principles put into play, VanNewkirk said, is a great educational tool for the kids.

“It's a great experience because we get to review STEM that we talk about throughout the year,” said Van Newkirk. “This reinforces how those skills are used in the real world. It's something these kids don't get to experience often.”

Every fifth grader will participate in the Starbase program over two weeks. Students culminate the experience with a April 17 launch of rockets they design.


Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or