The Sky’s the Limit for Kids at STARBASE Summer Camp

What do you get when you mix a handful of knowledgeable volunteers; some scientific principles, theories and laws; rocket materials; and a group of bright-eyed, young students?

You get the annual STARBASE Camp — more than 20 4th, 5th, and 6th graders learning exciting science, technology, engineering and math applications that will help them launch a rocket, and hopefully, ideas for their future. The camp was held at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport here, June 18-21.

“We [the North Carolina Air National Guard] were one of the first three bases to spearhead the STARBASE program in 1993, and I’ve been involved with it since 1994. [I] then transitioned to director in 2008 after Air Force Brig. Gen. James Emerson stepped down. STARBASE has been to 99 counties in North Carolina, and we have one more to go,” said Barbara Miller, director of the North Carolina STARBASE program.


Founded in Detroit in 1989, STARBASE, originally named Project Stars, was created by teacher Barbara Koscak as a means to expose at-risk youth to a technological environment and positive role models.

Koscak approached Air Force Brig. Gen. David Arendts, former commander of the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Fighter Wing, with her idea. With the general’s blessing, the program commenced at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan.

In 1993, Congress appropriated funds to initiate the Department of Defense STARBASE program that has since spread throughout the country.

“I’m just finishing up my second year, and I think this program is amazing,” said Robin Henson, North Carolina STARBASE program instructor. “The students stay so engaged; even the students who teachers tell us don’t always show interest in school. Every time we come out, there’s always something for them to get interested in. As teachers, we always want to see kids get excited about learning,”

Growing Program

Nearly 30 years later, the program has spread to at least 30 states and Puerto Rico, with at least 60 locations across the U.S. Kansas leads with five different STARBASE spots. North Carolina has two: one in Charlotte and one at Kure Beach near Fort Fisher National Guard Base.

The programs are held on active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases, Army National Guard bases and a Marine Corps base. STARBASE has served more than a million students since its start in 1993, and continues to grow exponentially each year.

“I think it’s a really productive program because you lose your knowledge in some subjects in the middle of the year and it teaches you some things that will keep you ahead for the next year,” said Louis Helms, son of Air Force Maj. Jeanie Helms, commander of the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Comptroller Flight.

The students took an introductory knowledge test that assesses what they may already know regarding the week’s theme, such as forensics or engineering.

The students also toured a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that arrived to the base as one of eight aircraft that will be assigned to the 145th Airlift Wing.

“It’s a fun program and I want to come back next year,” said Xavier Francis, son of Air Force veteran David Francis, now a civilian contractor with the 145th Security Forces Squadron.