Eight graders, from left, Dennis Swanson, Elio Flores and Joe Wise work on writing a song together, March 22, during a music composition and audio engineering class. In DSST schools, more art driven electives have recently been implemented into STEM curriculum to provide a better rounded learning experience for the students.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel

AURORA | Wings Over the Rockies and the Sentinel have teamed up to help inspire the next generation of engineers, mathematicians, coders, artists and pilots.

Wings and the Sentinel are set to host a STEAM For All festival on Sept. 15, a chance for kids and their parents to immerse themselves in everything STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) related. The event offers attendees a chance to talk with dozens of leaders in the STEAM field, get hands-on with some of the latest technology, and have an educational experience centered around having some fun.

“At the end of day, (there are) very few places you can go and get that individual interaction with companies. And it’s just plain fun,” said Benjamin Theune, spokesman for Wings. “Wings is really a leader along the front range in education and we want to continue to provide those opportunities to our guests.”

Theune said last year Wings hosted a STEAM event focused exclusively on girls and young women. But for the second festival, Wings wanted a chance to open up opportunities to everyone,. And by everyone, they mean everyone.

This year’s event will feature workshops, including ones led by Spanish-speaking instructors, a separate day to provide guests with disabilities unobstructed access, and a wide variety of STEAM-focused activities that aren’t just focused on the aerospace industry, said April Lanotte, Wings’ director of education.

For Lanotte, opening doors to everyone interested in STEAM and actively seeking to include kids and youth who might feel excluded from taking advantage of these opportunities is an important mission not just for Wings, but for her as well.

“When I grew up I wanted to be an astronaut. I loved science and space. But growing up in a small town, you’re steered away from that. ‘Being an astronaut is what other people do, why don’t you do this instead?’” Lanotte said. “So I’ve always been passionate about not excluding people from the bigger picture; it takes everybody to a part of this. Everyone has a skill they can bring to (STEAM) careers. There’s a place for everyone in STEAM.”

The event on Sept. 15 will feature several ways for kids to participate. The massive hangar at Wings’ homebase in Lowry will be filled with booths from industry leaders like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance. Not only will event goers get a chance to get hands on with exhibits from those companies, they can all learn what working for them could be like and what they’d need to do educationally to get ready for a career, Thune said.

Along with that opportunity, guests will have a chance to sign up for workshops that range in expertise levels and topics. Whether it’s using a 3D printer to build models, learning about aerodynamics by building paper airplanes or getting hands-on learning to code, there should be a chance for kids to find something that will spark an interest, Lanotte said.

The event will also feature two keynote speakers who will discuss the STEAM field and their own experiences.

Lanotte said one major focus of every presentation and workshop will be to give kids a way to continue to learn after they’ve left Wings for the day. If a kid finds out that coding is something they love to tackle, Lanotte said they’re going to be provided with multiple outlets for that passion, like online resources for connecting them with locally-based companies that can provide them with new opportunities to learn.

“Every workshop has a what next step, so kids can leave empowered to do more and learn more,” Lanotte said.

While exciting kids about STEAM education is a worthy goal all on its own, Thune said the ripple effect of creating the next generation of leaders in STEAM careers is something that will benefit everyone in the metro area. In the aerospace industry alone, there will be a need for more than two million employees globally in the next 30 years. And that need for employees is being felt in every STEAM-focused industry.

“The opportunities for (employment) continue to grow. And the question facing everyone in the industry is how do we keep filling the demands that are right here in Colorado,” Theune said. “We know this event is one that both the public and the industry want to be a part of.”

STEAM For All at Wings Over the Rockies

11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 15

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum 7711 E. Academy Blvd. Lowry/Denver

$5 for 17 and older. 16 and younger free.

To register, visit wingsmuseum.org/event/steam/