A member of the newest military branch helped spur interest in science among Sand Creek Elementary students during a virtual field trip Dec. 21.

Fourth-graders at the Coon Rapids school learned about space and weather from a member of the Space Force.

The event was part of the Space Force’s larger “DeSTEMber” outreach to promote science, technology, engineering and math in the classroom.

The DeSTEMber event came on the eve of the Space Force’s one-year anniversary as a branch of the U.S. military. The goal was to connect elementary students with space professionals, according to a statement from Air Combat Command.

Students were able to ask Nicholas Ruiz, the deputy chief of standardization and evaluation, some questions about the Space Force and the cosmos before he presented a lesson about weather and space that tied into the students’ water unit.

“We want to inspire our young learners to really think beyond the classroom,” fourth-grade teacher Sara Narr said.

Ruiz told students that members of his base manage satellites, ranging in function from GPS to scanning ground images. He said there were about 250 satellites controlled from his base alone.

He explained that satellites are usually designed to last seven to 15 years and run off solar-powered batteries. Most satellites, unless they are close enough to Earth to fall back into the atmosphere, remain out there. Ruiz referenced the movie “Wall-E,” which depicts a massive field of junk orbiting the Earth, saying that while the movie exaggerated the amount of space debris, it is still a concern.

Ruiz explained the importance of weather to professions such as farming and piloting. He also told students how storm clouds function and how precipitation like hail forms. He walked students through the water cycle and how water evaporates to the clouds and comes down as rain, feeding rivers and streams.

He also explained that tornadoes form, usually during a storm, when cold air undercuts warmer air and forms a horizontal rotation. As the storm gets more powerful, the rotation then stands on one end, forming a funnel cloud, according to Ruiz.

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