Youth center opens $45K STEM center

Three-year-old Sam Slentz-Bobo works on a Lego robot during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Center of Innovation at Kirtland Youth Programs on Thursday, March 29. The center was constructed using a $45,000 grant from Raytheon and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Three-year-old Sam Slentz-Bobo works on a Lego robot during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Center of Innovation at Kirtland Youth Programs on Thursday, March 29. The center was constructed using a $45,000 grant from Raytheon and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Children in the Kirtland Youth Center will now have access to 3-D printers and other technologies at the new STEM Center of Innovation.

On March 29, Kirtland AFB officials gathered at the youth programs facility to mark the grand opening of a new specialized science, technology, engineering and math center for the students. The center was created to inspire children of military families to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math.

Funding for the center came from a $45,000 grant provided to the Kirtland program by Raytheon and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

“Thanks to Boys and Girls Club of America and Raytheon, we had the most amazing opportunity to apply for a $45,000 STEM grant and completely transform two spaces within our program into rooms that supply high-end technology and space to learn, create and explore,” said Heather Hutzell, a youth recreation specialist who helped write the grant along with Lucy Burbach.

The center is part of Raytheon’s commitment to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Raytheon has a  $5 million multi-year commitment to Boys & Girls Clubs of America and it is part of the technology and innovation company’s $10 million pledge to support military families and veterans.

In a press release, Pam Erickson, Raytheon’s Vice President of Global Branding and Citizenship said, “Military families go where they are needed, when they are needed. Raytheon’s goal is to provide their children with an environment to foster their creative and learning passions. Supporting military families is our responsibility; inspiring the military child is our privilege.”

The Kirtland organization was notified of their grant approval in the fall.

“Our grand opening/reveal of these spaces was on March 29 and included activities such as 3-D printing demos, magnetic slime, roller coaster building, squishy circuits and homemade dip n dots made with liquid nitrogen,” Hutzell said.

There are than a dozen Centers of Innovation throughout the nation and in Germany. Each center allows military children access  to advanced technologies including 3D printing, computer programing and other STEM related activities.

The local center is now home to two 3-D printers and several new computers with software to encourage them to experiment with STEM. The center also has cabinets and counters for additional workspace.

Hutzell said youth center staff was encouraged to apply for the grant by Air Force Research Laboratory Scientist Oscar Martinez. Hutzell and Burbach attending a grant training in San Diego and to learn about STEM curriculum. Hutzell said that several people in attendance at the training had expressed to them that they had submitted for the grant three times before being selected to receive the grant.

“We received the grant the first time we submitted it,” Hutzell said in a previous interview with the Nucleus.

Susan Kelly of the local Raytheon office spoke at the event.

“Raytheon is committed to inspiring students to pursue STEM careers,” Kelly said to the large audience in attendance.

Col. Dawn Nickell said, “Our most sincere thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of American and Raytheon for providing the grant.”