U.S. Air Force Leadership Experience

FIRST Mentors Learn More than the Basics at U.S. Air Force Leadership Experience

It was back to school a little early this summer for 24 FIRST Mentors, but the curriculum was a lot more advanced than reading, writing, and arithmetic. The Mentors — who were selected from over 250 applicants from across the country — were invited to attend a U.S. Air Force Leadership Experience at Cape Canaveral in Cocoa Beach, Florida, to fine tune their leadership skills and learn a little about rockets at the same time. The Air Force offered this unique opportunity to the Mentors as an extension of its sponsorship of the 2012 FIRST Championship.

Colonel Miriam Michael, who is also a management and leadership professor, led the two-day training, which focused on teaching teams how to work together to solve complex problems. During the sessions, the Colonel conducted group exercises that explained the seven dynamics of change and team development stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

“The USAF Leadership Experience was the most exciting and intriguing program I have ever been a part of as an educator. Seeing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education on that large of a level was truly amazing. There's no doubt that I will be sharing this experience with all my classes, colleagues, and FIRST teams for years to come,” said Mentor Steve Smitka.

Colonel Miriam Michael, management and leadership professor, instructs the group on team building principles that help teams perform at a high level and solve complex problems. Megan Jones, Theresa Richards, Julia Barry, Chris Andros Colonel Miriam Michael
24 outstanding FIRST Mentors visit the Air Force rocket launch control center at Cape Canaveral.  The mentors came from all over the country, including one from Hawaii and one from Alaska. The U.S. Air Force launches satellite payloads on Atlas and Delta rockets from Cape Canaveral.  Here an Atlas V rocket is being transported from the VIF (vertical integration facility) to the launch pad. A fun photo op by the boosters of an Atlas rocket for Erin Harper, Ty Fredriks, David Beatley and Justin Brown.
An Atlas rocket from above and below – the group toured a Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) where the rocket stages and payload are assembled.  In the photo on the left, the group is at the top of the VIF – 220 feet in the air with a view of the launch pad in the distance.  The photo on the right is the view everyone got as they walked underneath the bottom of the rocket.

While in Florida, the FIRST Mentors also learned about rocket launch operations at Cape Canaveral where the Air Force launches rockets to deploy its network of over 150 satellites used for secure communications, navigation, weather, and surveillance. Representatives from the 45th Space Wing conducted tours of the launch control rooms, as well as the launch pads and vertical integration facilities where the rocket stages and payloads are assembled.

“The opportunity to learn from members of the U.S. Air Force was an awesome honor. Knowing there are stages and phases that developing teams experience will help us as we continue into our third year as an all-girls FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — “Girls of Steel,” Team 3504,” said Mentor Theresa Richards.

"We were pleased to get to know this group of outstanding Mentors. The Air Force appreciates their service and commitment to our nation's most valued treasure — the young men and women who will be America's next leaders,” said Colonel Marcus Johnson, Air Force Recruiting Service.

At their “graduation,” the Mentors received a personalized certificate for their participation in the U.S. Air Force Leadership Experience. (Pictured are Mentors: David Beatley, Lindsey Cofer, Ty Fredriks, Megan Jones, Pam Kraus, Mark Nance, Luther Richardson, and Steven Smitka.)

FIRST is extremely grateful to the U.S. Air Force and its Leadership Experience program for the opportunity to participate in this special training and for recognizing our dedicated Mentors who work tirelessly in their FIRST efforts to inspire the next generation of leaders in science, technology, and innovation.