Air Force Technical Sergeant Honored as DoD STEM Advocate

Air Force Technical Sergeant Honored as DoD STEM Advocate

Technical Sergeant Joshua Leopardi recognized for supporting DoD mission to inspire the next generation of young Americans

Technical Sergeant Joshua Leopardi from the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron, 30th Space Wing, US Air Force, was recently honored as the 2017 third quarter winner of the Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and Outreach Advocate of the Quarter Award. Leopardi was recognized for demonstrating exemplary STEM education and outreach advocacy in his local community, the Central Coast area of California, in support of the Department’s STEM mission to inspire the next generation of young Americans.

Leopardi has greatly supported the DoD’s STEM mission to attract and inspire exceptional STEM talent across the Nation’s education continuum by engaging students in all levels of education, from elementary school to college-age students. For elementary students, he helped coordinate the addition of the sub-scale Discovery Space Shuttle model at the Santa Maria Valley Children's Museum. Leopardi assisted in the design and build of the model, which incorporated mechanical levers and sounds, providing an interactive experience for children to get excited and interested in space. Additionally, Leopardi worked with the Air Force Base Vandenberg Library to create a STEM-related craft night for younger children, which is a bi-weekly event in which children are led by engineers on a project in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics areas.

Leopardi’s work with middle and high school students included leading the Vandenberg Middle School team in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, in which he personally mentored them by holding weekly meetings with the students to discuss the rocket design process. His leadership and guidance ultimately led to scores that qualified the team for the national competition. Leopardi’s endless enthusiasm for raising STEM awareness also prompted him to act as the lead volunteer for the Central Coast STEM Science Fair, which promoted STEM interest to over 169 middle and high school students.

College-age students have benefitted greatly from Leopardi's efforts. He is currently working towards a degree in Aerospace Engineering with hopes of a career in this discipline, and due to his enthusiasm in this area of research, Leopardi led a STEM tour of the Vandenberg Air Force Base, connecting college students with the student chapter of the local section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he is currently serving as an active chairman. He has even created events that reach out to people of all ages in the local community, including creating a quarterly Aerospace Trivia Night, which resulted in great opportunities for social and professional networking for everyone interested in the aerospace industry.

Leopardi’s dedication towards STEM advocacy and his ability to engage students of all academic levels have helped the Air Force and the Department advance in its STEM-related mission and goals. He serves as a powerful STEM promoter and recruiter through his commitment to providing compelling, real-world STEM learning opportunities to everyone in his local community.

Past STEM Education and Outreach Advocate of the Quarter Awards have also been presented to Dr. Rose Pesce-Rodriguez, US Army Research Laboratory, Weapons and Materials Directorate, Energetic Materials Science Branch (2017 second quarter winner) and Ms. Shanda Johnson, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (2017 first quarter winner).

By Emily Tully