“The Center of Innovation … gives me opportunities to learn and do activities that are fun, but also challenging, expanding my STEM skills, exploring different technologies and innovating cool things,” she said.
Specifically, Waterton enjoys honing her art skills on the COI’s Wacom Art tablet, a tool commonly used by professional graphic artists.
“It’s really cool to experience this [Wacom tablet] at such a young age,” Waterton said. “It’s like I’m this big artist when I’m really starting my path.”
The tablet is among a variety of new equipment purchased for the center, all part of Raytheon Technologies $10 million pledge to support military families and veterans by providing educational resources. Other equipment includes two personal computers, robotics, STEM kits, 3D printers, a green screen and a mix of additional STEM-enhancing activities.
“It’s a natural good fit and it make sense, and I’m just excited that Raytheon Technologies and Boys & Girls Clubs [of America] can come together in this partnership to provide that environment and opportunity for all children from all walks of life,” said Randy McIntire, a director for Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business.
McIntire, a 35-year Army veteran, intimately understands the significance of COIs.
“We lived on military installations, so I know the value of having programs like this, as a father of four children that took part in these kinds of activities. It takes a community to make it better for our children,” McIntire said.
The center celebrated its grand opening with a STEM Learning Day. Hands-on activities such as smart remote-control cars and DIY experiments with slime, art supplies and more, took center stage during the event.
Like their parents, the children of military families face similar challenges like separation during frequent deployments and leaving friends behind in change of station moves. According to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, military families often move six to nine times before their children graduate high school — about three times more frequently than civilian families.
“By accepting children of military families to the team, you’re getting kids that have probably lived all over the world and are adaptable and able to change, so that’s a diverse type of American kid,” Julia Sibilla, Deputy Garrison Commander at Fort Sill, told event attendees. “They’re going to be building, creating, innovating. They’re going to be part of the future.”
Raytheon Technologies and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are focusing their STEM programming on diversity, equity and inclusion to help build a more diverse future workforce in STEM. The partnership supports a new DIY STEM activity-based curriculum that connects youth to science themes found in the real world.
STEM jobs are growing at a higher rate and paying more than double that of non-STEM occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means many opportunities for young people to seek successful futures.
“We have a vested interest in building the talent pipeline, igniting the curiosity at a very early age about STEM activities that ultimately produces the engineers we need down the road that are going to solve tough problems for the 21st century,” McIntire said.
This center is one of 22 worldwide, designed to instill confidence in military youth and provide them with access to STEM resources they may not have otherwise.
“While I learn about STEM in school, if it weren’t for the Center of Innovation, I wouldn’t have developed a love for graphic design,” Waterton said.
The budding artist hopes to be a graphic designer someday, so she plans to study this discipline in college.
“If you have a dream, go for it,” Waterton said. “Everything is possible.”