Heinrich Announces Funding For Innovative STEM Education Program

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich


Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced $25 million in authorized funding for the continuation of the nationwide STARBASE program, which motivates fifth grade students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through hands-on learning in collaboration with military installations.

The program in New Mexico is based at Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) La Luz Academy where scientists, engineers, and military volunteers from AFRL and other Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) organizations apply abstract principles to real world situations by giving students interactive demonstrations on the use of STEM in different settings and careers.

“We need more New Mexico students who are passionate about STEM to fill the in-demand jobs at our national labs and military installations,” Heinrich said. “STARBASE is a highly effective program that strengthens the relationships between the military, communities, and local school districts. The program at AFRL’s La Luz Academy exposes students to STEM at a critical age and puts them on the path to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.”

The announcement was made at KAFB where Heinrich was joined by Ronda Cole, director of La Luz Academy.

Heinrich toured La Luz Academy and met with students who have participated in the STARBASE program. The STARBASE program at La Luz Academy is geared toward students who are historically under-represented in the STEM fields and allows them to participate in a 25-hour hands-on curriculum where they solve scientific challenges related to aerospace.  In New Mexico, the program has served nearly 10,000 5th grade students.

Director of La Luz Academy Ronda Cole said, “Department of Defense STARBASE is a vital program in our community that allows us to begin laying the foundation for our future workforce by providing hands-on minds-on opportunities that introduce students to STEM concepts and career fields. This program involves students in the exploration and practical application of STEM concepts, an approach that brings meaning to the content students are learning. Research has shown that students start evaluating their interests and intellectual strengths in elementary school and by middle school they use that self-assessment to define their career aspirations. Department of Defense STARBASE plants the seeds for students to begin to imagine what they might become if they go on to pursue studies in STEM fields.”