USAF Academy Professor Honored as DoD STEM Advocate
Dr. Furstenau’s dedication to STEM advocacy and engaging students advances DoD STEM mission
Dr. Ronald P. Furstenau from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Chemistry Department, was recently honored as the 2017 fourth quarter winner of the Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and Outreach Advocate of the Quarter Award. Furstenau was recognized for demonstrating exemplary STEM education and outreach advocacy at the Air Force Academy and in his local community, in support of the Department’s STEM mission to inspire America’s next generation of young scientists and engineers.
Furstenau greatly earned his role as the “the man” to book for STEM events across Colorado by engaging students in all levels of education, from elementary school to college-age students. His endless enthusiasm for STEM and ability to engage students through authentic real-world learning opportunities and presentations has made him very popular amongst the education community. Furstenau has presented in local kindergarten – 12 grade classrooms, conducted Gifted and Talented workshops, and participated in school Science and STEM Nights. Colorado universities have also requested him to present at Cool Science Carnival Days - a festival that includes science shows, hands-on fun exhibits, open labs and demos, along with many other fun STEM-related events. Additionally, Furstenau dedicates his Saturdays to conducting interactive chemistry workshops to regional Girl and Boy Scout troops. During these workshops, the attendees can receive their Home Science and Chemistry Merit badges by participating in hands-on activities consisting of polymers, dry ice, and chemical reactions.
Furstenau also takes an active role in helping prepare teachers to bring STEM, with an emphasis on chemistry, to their classrooms in entertaining and engaging ways for students of all ages. He has personally led professional development workshops, with his most recent program called, “Chemistry in the Garden.” During this effort, teachers extracted caffeine from tea leaves and conducted metal analysis in mushrooms and spinach. Additionally, this past summer, Furstenau taught additional hands-on sessions entitled, “Periodic Table, States of Matter and Quantum Mechanics,” “Polymers,” “Make it Stop,” “Chemistry of Rockets,” and “Qualitative Analysis on the Microscale” to 110 teachers attending a STEM Teacher Bootcamp.
Furstanau continues to bring compelling, real-world STEM learning opportunities to his classroom at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Student and teacher feedback consistently ranked his presentations as the number one STEM experience of the day on the Air Force Academy Survey of Satisfaction forms. He has even authored his own book entitled, “Julie and the Atom,” written with children in mind describing atoms and molecules at an elementary level. He passes out this book to students in the hopes of keeping them interested and excited about STEM education.
Furstenau’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 helps ensure students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in their careers, and is committed to providing educators with the necessary resources needed to provide every student with an authentic STEM experience in the classroom. Furstenau’s STEM-related work continues to inspire and secure the Nation’s future workforce talent of innovators and researchers who will develop cutting-edge technology solutions to help solve the most critical technological challenges on a national and international scale.
Past STEM Education and Outreach Advocate of the Quarter Awards have also been presented to Technical Sergeant Joshua Leopardi, 1st Air and Space Test Squadron, 30th Space Wing, US Air Force (2017 third quarter winner), 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