Academy hosts leadership conference with FIRST Robotics Mentors

National educators take a break at the ropes course July 26 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The teachers visited the Academy to attend the FIRST Leadership Experience. (U.S. Air Force photo/Laurie Wilson)

National educators take a break at the ropes course July 26 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The teachers visited the Academy to attend the FIRST Leadership Experience. (U.S. Air Force photo/Laurie Wilson)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

The Center for Character and Leadership Development hosted 24 educators from across the U.S. at the FIRST Leadership Experience July 24-26 in Polaris Hall.   

 Air Force Recruiting sponsored and accompanied the teachers, all members of the national organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST. Most teach at the middle and high school level and are commonly called FIRST Mentors.

"We wanted to attract the best and brightest here and create a STEM connection with them," said Capt. Ross McKnight, an Academy grad and Air Force recruiter.

The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based robotics teams that build science, engineering and technology skills. They engage kindergarten through high school students to build their STEM skills and inspire their imagination by fostering self-confidence, communication and leadership.

 "Our vision is to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders," said FIRST Founder Dean Kamen.

McKnight said the mission of his office is to connect the Air Force with like-minded organizations who foster STEM goals in U.S. education.

The teachers participated in sessions designed to hone their mentoring skills through immersion with the Air Force core values. Sessions covered team building, leadership, creative problem solving and organizational skills. 

Adrienne Strange, Account Supervisor for GSD&M Advertising, who was traveling with the group, said the CCLD was the obvious place to bring the group to discuss new ways of leading tomorrow's STEM stand-outs.

Mentors were also given tours of the CCLD, mechanics lab, aero lab, robotics lab and cadet pavilion.  They also took a turn on the ropes course.

 "It's great to be reminded of how the Air Force core values should be at the fore-front of our leadership and therefore our teams and classrooms," said Tom Schultz, a teacher and FIRST Mentor from Michigan. "I'm grateful for this tremendous opportunity which will undoubtedly make a positive impact on my classroom students and [robotics] team. I'm sure I speak for the other 24 teachers when I say I'm excited to see the domino effect that this will have on all of the students in our lives."