Some Thoughts from the Executive Director, Bill Hayden

Bill Hayden at STARBASEDuring the past school year (including our STARBASE summer camps), we have seen significant advances in our effort to reach more students, more often, in new and different ways. Our core program still engages all 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Portsmouth. However, we now send some of our instructors out into the schools to work with 4th graders and their teachers during benchmark testing for other grades. Because we are resource limited at our schoolhouse, these “exportable” modules are effective at providing STEM “booster shots” to those 4th graders. When our instructors arrive in their class, the students recognize the STARBASE logo on their shirts…and the excitement level grows. So does learning!

Talking about 4th graders, I am reminded that we partnered with the Port of Virginia to provide these students with a whole new module at STARBASE that includes the use of 3D “virtual reality” goggles. The students can “tour” the port while they are sitting in class! Then they learn about port operations and how Virginia products come and go through the port. The next time their car is stopped by a train carrying shipping containers, they can tell you where those containers came from and where they are going.

We still teach about weather, oysters and the Elizabeth River watershed. And 6th graders still build and launch their rockets. STARBASE wouldn’t be the same without those experiences, and the students really enjoy “doing stuff” with their hands and minds.

Over 400 students enjoyed adventures during our summer camps. Once again, the elementary coding camp was our most popular offering. Can you produce a game on your cell phone? These children can. The FOHTA (From One Hand to Another) Maker Camp students learned what it takes to start and run a small business. Working with our Olde Towne partners, the students formed a team to design and “pitch” a product or service to potential investors…Shark Tank style. They designed their product using LittleBits Kits (elementary electrical circuits whose components are connected magnetically).

Cox Communications surprised us with 20 Kano Computer Touch kits. The campers really enjoyed making their own computer tablet from these kits…complete with “apps” (applications for music, art, coding, MindCraft and more).

The world is changing, folks, and our children are learning things that we never even dreamed of. It’s all happening at STARBASE!