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Youth center opens Center of Innovation

Col. David Willcox, 96th Mission Support Group, addresses youth center members during opening celebrations for the Center of Innovation April 20, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sara Francis)

Col. David Willcox, 96th Mission Support Group, addresses youth center members during opening celebrations for the Center of Innovation April 20, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sara Francis)

Master. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen, 96th Force Support Squadron first sergeant, and youth center members test new science equipment in the youth center’s Center of Innovation April 20, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sara Francis)

Master. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen, 96th Force Support Squadron first sergeant, and youth center members test new science equipment in the youth center’s Center of Innovation April 20, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sara Francis)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The youth center in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club celebrated the opening of its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics- focused Center of Innovation April 20 here.

The center will provide members access to advanced technologies and focus on STEM-related subjects and activities including a robotics kit, 3D printers and  a makerspace with a giant tool wall. Also provided are invention- and computer-building kits that offer hands-on learning opportunities to explore and advance understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts.

“[Because of this partnership], our youth have the promise of obtaining skills to excel in achieving their academic goals and to inspire them to pursue STEM-based careers,” said Ann Lienemann, director of Eglin Youth Programs.

Col. David Willcox, 96th Mission Support Group commander, spoke about the uniqueness of a military child and how these centers provide a grounding place for children who share that common experience.

"Youth centers are an integral part of any military installation," said Willcox. "Military children have a very unique life experience, and the youth center is one place where they know they will be around other kids who share that experience."

After a ribbon cutting, youth center members were able to participate in activities incorporating the new center’s equipment and gadgets.

The program was made possible by and a grant from Raytheon to cultivate interest in the STEM fields, which are expected to grow nearly twice as fast as any other field by 2018 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Eglin is the third Air Force youth center to benefit from the grant, with 22 locations planned or currently in operation within Boys & Girls Clubs worldwide.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to providing kids and teens with the resources they need to explore the endless possibilities available to them,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Our new Centers of Innovation will allow our youth to discover an array of new passions and career paths related to STEM that they can pursue to achieve their great future.”