Straw Rockets? A Great Experiment this Month at STARBASE

Just to give you an idea of what goes on at STARBASE in the AEROBASE program, the students seem to love this experiment. Their teacher, Matt Stakes, (call sign “Neptune”) explains it this way: “Students create and launch a straw rocket that contains a straw, a nose cone made of modeling clay, and paper fins. For the hypothesis, students are testing how the length of a rocket affects its range of flight.  Students do this test with a short (10cm) and long (20cm) rocket.  Each group also gets a different fin design.  After the launch, we also review the data to determine how the fins affected the flight.  The experiment ties into Newton’s three laws of motion which is a theme in AEROBASE.”

Everything about the experiment is engaging, from the hands-on learning to the dedicated teachers like Matthew.

Students will create and launch a straw rocket that contains the following materials: a straw, a nose cone made of modeling clay, and paper fins.

Hypothesis:  Students are testing how the length of a rocket affects its range of flight.  Students do this test with a short (10cm) and long (20cm) rocket.  Each group also gets a different fin design.  After the launch we also review the data to determine how the fins affected the flight.  The experiment ties into Newton’s three laws of motion which is a theme in AEROBASE.

Industry and STEM Education – It’s a partnership

By: Christine Suter
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There is a reason that STARBASE Victory maintains relationships with industry partners at the local and national level. Industry partners provide critical support for the STARBASE Victory program both in terms of financial assistance and strategic direction to ensure that the STEM curriculum prepares students for STEM careers and generates excitement and interest in the field. STEM Education Coalition Executive Director James Brown recently stated that “Public- private partnerships and incentives that promote business and industry engagement are vital components in STEM education activities and integration.” The STARBASE Victory model is just that, a public-private partnership,

To ensure that our technological fields are staffed with qualified individuals, education must prepare students to become employees in these fields. An open dialog between industry and educators is critical to meeting future technological needs. STARBASE Victory maintains a strong partnership with industry leaders in shipbuilding, transportation, engineering, and energy. Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries is the only shipyard that builds nuclear aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. Enabling transit across the Elizabeth River between Portsmouth and Norfolk, the Elizabeth River Crossing is a local transportation cornerstone. Our partners participate in summer camp “lunch and learn” sessions where employees describe their careers and the skills to succeed in STEM-focused careers. Additionally, STARBASE Victory students and summer campers attend field trips at local industries and universities which provides further demonstrations of STEM skills and STEM career paths.

In the summer of 2015, we partnered with the Churchland Rotary club to begin a STARBASE STEM program for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portsmouth. This camp uses the LittleBits system of magnetic modules that, when tied together teach the children how an electrical “system” works, from sensor to power pack to actuator. Students from the Boys and Girls Clubs attend a field experience to Maryview Hospital to see how electrical systems are used to help people.

SPACEBASE summer camps for rising 5th graders explore spatial literacy, modeling, graphing, team building, and leadership skills.  Using GPS (Global Positioning Systems) combined with a software program called "Mapping Your Neighborhood", students work in teams to generate and organize data, then present that data graphically.  During their walking tour of Olde Town Portsmouth, each team locates and interacts with local businesses, ultimately creating a brochure representing the areas they visited. These are just a few examples of some of our collaboration with local industries and educational institutions that contribute to STARBASE Victory being a STEM education leader.

Several studies have shown that early exposure to STEM education can help spark a child’s interest in these subject areas. STARBASE Victory does just this with its four day program for all 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students in Portsmouth Public Schools. Through continued collaboration and partnership with industry, STEM education programs like STARBASE Victory, can continue to be valuable tools to prepare the next generation of workers in STEM fields. For more information on our current partners, please read more on our website.

Make a Difference: Coding and Computing Skills Should Start Early!

Did you know learning even the basics of coding will help students in virtually any career—from architecture to zoology? Just as we teach students how to dissect a frog, or how electricity works, it’s important for every 21st century student to have a chance to design an app or an algorithm, or learn how the Internet works.

But the need to start early goes deeper than that. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections (, The projection for new computing jobs is 548,200 from 2014-2024. Specifically, in Virginia the opportunity for our young people is incredible: Virginia currently has 34,469 open computing jobs (4.3 times the average demand rate in Virginia). Virginia had only 1,419 computer science graduates in 2014; only 19% were female. Meanwhile, a wide range of industries require coding, from the high-tech professionals who create coding to the coders who increase productivity day-to- day in so many operations, are faced with the challenge of hiring these technically savvy skilled professionals.


The medical industry is a good example. New standards known as the ICD-10 implemented in October 2015, aimed to provide more details on the diagnoses, treatments and outcomes a coder records from a doctor's notes, procedure recommendations and patients lab results. It didn’t take long to realize medical practices and facilities had a major shortage of coders to implement the new standards. ICD-10 uses more than 140,000 codes, including a new designation for the Ebola virus, compared to the just over 17,000 codes employed by the current standard ICD-9. Becoming an accredited coder requires anywhere from 700 to 1,000 hours of coursework in fields of study including physiology, anatomy and pharmacology. Hiring started including bonuses above the $30,000 to $60,000 salaries, not even considering higher pay for managers and auditors. This is just one example of how important coding will be in future technologies.

For STARBASE, creating PPSCoders as summer camps and continuing to expand these camps was based directly on our program outcomes which prove that when you start engaging students at an early age, they begin to see themselves in careers which they (and their families) would have never dreamed of for them! These summer camps were implemented after the first year STARBASE became a participant in Hour of Code, a national nonprofit expanding access to computer science. Their K-12 program consists of an innovative approach to professional development, curriculum, and promotional materials. You can learn more at


The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week The 2016 Computer Science Education Week will be December 5-11, but you can host an Hour of Code all year round. Computer Science Education Week is held annually in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.

STARBASE has made this an annual aspect of the program’s curriculum because the students love it! Hour of Code at STARBASE this year will be December 7 through 9 or possibly through the 12 th . This year’s program will involve 4 th graders from Douglass Park and Lakeview; 5 th graders from Simonsdale and James Hurst, and 6 th graders from Douglass Park and Park View. Visit our Facebook for photos during the week!

Summer at STARBASE

Learn more about summer at STARBASE! PPS visitors did a great article and photos from Summer Camps.

Read the article here!


Summer Camps Bring Students Fun and STEM Skills

Nearly 450 students are in summer camps this year at STARBASE Victory! There is never a dull moment at the schoolhouse with students learning everything from coding in PPS Coders to environmental stewardship in ENVIROBASE.  Each week through the end of July, you will find twenty five or so students in each camp except when they on an awesome field trip!  We offer extensions (graduate courses) in the subjects they learned during the school year in SPACEBASE, ENVIROBASE and AEROBASE for rising 5th, 6th and 7th graders.  We also offer new programs to such as LEGO WEDO Robotics Camp for rising 4thgradersLEGO WeDo Robotics Camp where campers will build and program “robotic critters” capable of performing simple tasks.  Campers will be encouraged to imagine, explore, and investigate basic machine principles through the development and reinforcement of integrated problem solving, communication skills, teamwork and collaboration..

Pictured here are students during the second session of SPACEBASE for rising 5th graders. At this camp, students used geospatial technologies to learn more about Old Towne Portsmouth. Mapping, exploration, and interaction with the businesses in Old Towne Portsmouth during the field trip resulted in each team’s creation of a brochure representing the area. The key components of the camp were to use their STEM skills as they learn about mapping, tourism, and urban planning by using GPS to track a wayward pirate through Old Towne Portsmouth.

Spacebase teamwork

One Recognition Leads to Another

CabotExecutive Director Bill Hayden received a Volunteer of the Year Award through the Hampton Roads Volunteer Council. That organization submitted Bill for a Cabot Creamery Celebrity Award. Well, he was a little surprised and very humble with all the attention, but yes, he was selected as a national award winner by  Cabot Creamery Cooperative, the New England and upstate New York farm-family owned dairy cooperative, for his selfless volunteerism in creating STARBASE Victory. Bill and his wife Kit joined honorees in November from across the country for the fifth Cabot Community Celebrity Cruise, along with Cabot staff and special honorees selected from program partners AARP Create the Good, National Cooperative Bank and Points of Light’s HandsOn Network for a six-day, seven-night excursion. Be sure to ask Bill about his cruise!

Your STARBASE is an Award Winner!

River StarSTARBASE Victory’s ENVIROBASE Aquarius has been recognized again as a River Star “Model” Program! What do our students do? All of Portsmouth public school fifth graders learned about the parameters of weather and the effects of erosion during their ENVIROBASE experience. They used global learning and observations while studying the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. Students documented their findings by making their own videos, sharing how they conducted their research and presenting possible solutions for concerns they discovered. Focusing on the Elizabeth River watershed, students harvested oysters in the fall and others planted them on an oyster reef during summer camp. In addition, students participated in an oyster restoration project. Students at Victory Elementary also participated in a wetland grass-planting project at the Hermitage Foundation.