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16th SOS hosts, teaches local MESA students

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The 16th Special Operations Squadron welcomed students from Portales High School into the special operations fold for a lesson in advanced math, engineering and science as employed by the warfighter, Dec. 9 at the 27th Special Operations Wing.

Roughly 30 students belonging to the high school’s Math Engineering and Science Achievement club received an AC-130 technology brief, and toured a powered-on AC-130W as subject matter experts from the squadron explained their functions and answered questions.

“The MESA group is a club at our school,” said Jack Willis, PHS teacher and MESA advisor. “Anyone can participate, but they must meet a fairly strict academic criteria that prescribes math, science and language arts each year, as well as a certain grade point average.”

The club provides a high-octane educational environment for students who show a propensity for the sciences, abstract problem-solving, and enjoy a fair amount of academic rivalry.

“We do robotics, environmental, and supercomputing competitions all over the state of New Mexico,” Willis explained. “Our primary goal is to help kids look at the practical side of scholastic subjects.”

The 16th SOS helped facilitate that objective. From gunship history, to aircraft roles, responsibilities, and capabilities, Air Commandos detailed how each system is dependent on intricate formulas, principles and equations.

“Our goal was to provide real world exposure to the practical applications of the concepts they are learning and working with,” said Capt. Daniel Sickles, 16th SOS Combat Systems officer. “In doing this, we were able to walk them through the history of the side-firing aircraft and how that engineering evolved. Specifically, we were able to show them how some geometry, trigonometry and physics principles they are learning have been applied in the engineering of the modern day gunship.”

Having recently placed sixth in an international robotics competition that required them to construct a functional robot from a handful of wires, a couple motors, and a bucket of spare parts, MESA students were able to comprehend, and benefit from a great deal of what they learned at the 16th SOS.

“This tour provided them a look at graduate level robotics,” Sickles said. “Getting to see the cycle of operations of the 30mm gun, as well as being able to see the gun move with command input from a sensor, illustrated a very high level of complexity in programming and engineering. It expanded their horizons as far as what can be done mechanically with the right engineering.”

By simply sharing their passions with the next generation of great thinkers, Air Commandos of the 16th SOS were able to send MESA students on their way with a better understanding of how they might turn their interests into technological advancements that shape the future of airpower.

“The students we provided the tour to are honor math and science students,” Sickles said. “We live in their neighborhood and many of these students will end up developing systems and technology that shape our future force. Mr. Jack Willis approached me the day after the tour and told me the kids went around telling their teachers what an awesome experience the tour was for them. Hearing that was very fulfilling.”