FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Fort Drum received Department of Defense approval to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics students with STARBASE Academy.

The academy is expected to open in spring of 2022 in building 1029 on Lewis Avenue. It is located near 10th Mountain Division training and simulations facilities, as well as other sites that could offer educational, historical and military experiences for students. The building will undergo over $1 million in renovations, partially through DoD funding. It currently has two dedicated classrooms, with potential for a third.

The Department of Defense STARBASE was developed in 1991 and has been DoD-funded since 1993. In 2019, participating students’ performance in physics, chemistry and mathematics improved by 36%, 32% and 19%, respectively. It also improved the students attitude about the military by 80%.

According to the Department of Defense, STARBASE is a premier educational program sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and challenges students with “hands-on, minds-on” STEM activities. It also encourages students to explore diverse and critical career fields.

The initiative of the program focuses on fifth-grade education, with a peer-reviewed curriculum designed to improve STEM knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The program engages students through the inquiry-based curriculum with experiential activities.

Wendy O’Sullivan, Fort Drum school liaison officer said the program will provide students with valuable knowledge.

“The program seamlessly blends the goals and objectives of Fort Drum and the school districts’ standards of learning objectives and strategic plans,” O’Sullivan said.

“STARBASE is a true Partners in Education initiative as it increases the bond between the community and the military installation, while providing STEM educational experiences for students and teachers in a hands-on, high-tech discovery- and inquiry-based environment,” O’Sullivan added.

The goal is to host a minimum of 60 classes per year, with approximately 30 students per class, each receiving 25 hours of interactive instruction, hands-on activities and specialized on-post tours.

The program can also serve as an outreach program to increase STEM education awareness within the Northern New York school districts, with 14 already committed to participating in the Academy. The schools involved will provide bussing to and from the academy. Schedules will be determined by the academy and the school districts combined effort. The program will also be be available to parochial school students and to homeschool families.

The STARBASE program has over 70 military installations across the United States, with more than 90,000 students participating annually.

Fort Drum will be the first installation in New York state to host DoD STARBASE. The program was endorsed by Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division leaders, district superintendents and New York state elected officials during the application process.