SOARing to New Heights in STEM Education

Project SOAR culminated with students building rockets and launching them at Denver’s East High School. Image Credit: Mark Woolcott

Project SOAR culminated with students building rockets and launching them at Denver’s East High School. Image Credit: Mark Woolcott

Denver, Colorado. July 30, 2014 – Twenty-five middle school students from the South Lincoln Housing Area in Denver recently participated in Project SOAR, which culminated with the students building rockets and launching them at Denver’s East High School.

Project SOAR is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through a HOPE VI grant to the Denver Housing Authority (DHA). The program is coordinated through the community organization, Shades of Blue, headed by Metropolitan State University Denver alumnus Willie Daniels.

“In this day and age, with all the technology available, kids aren’t aware that STEM plays a part in making that technology,” said Daniels. “We want to give these kids an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by showing them the kinds of careers they can pursue,” said Daniels.

Now in its third year, Project SOAR is designed to expose middle school students to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a university setting.

“The program is part of the University’s work to enhance our capacity through community partnerships,” said Gwendolyn Mami, executive director of MSU’s Office of Sponsored Research and Programs. “We provide faculty and student support through the Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science, which gives our students opportunities to participate in service learning, to serve as mentors to middle schoolers and to showcase their own experience and training beyond the classroom.”

In addition to tours of MSU Denver’s Robert K. Mock World Indoor Airport and other facilities, students visited the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Denver International Airport and the U.S. Air Force Academy where they met cadets, tried on parachutes and even learned the basics of base jumping.

Willie Daniels received a B.S. Professional Pilot from MSU in 1977 and is a veteran pilot with United Airlines. Daniels was excited to see some of last year’s SOAR participants return this year.