The future looks grim for one program in which McPherson students have participated.

The future looks grim for one program in which McPherson students have participated.

DoD Starbase is a nationwide program that teaches science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on activities. It is run by certified teachers and operated out of military bases for use of its equipment.

For many years it has been funded by the Department of Defense, but starting in October, this will no longer be the case. By removing the affiliation, the Starbase academies will have to vacate the military installations and find an alternative source of funding, which will likely terminate the program entirely.

“You transfer us out of the Department of Defense, where are we going to go?” Karen Whitacre of Salina's Starbase said. “We're sad for the kids. It's about the kids. That's why we're here.”

There are 49 Starbase hubs in the U.S. with four hubs in Kansas. Kansas locations operate on an $800,000 budget.

Fourth- through sixth- grade students who visit receive firsthand experience with rocket building, flight simulators, 3D printing, tours of jets and helicopters and conversations with real scientists.

“It's really enhanced their knowledge,” Sarah Razak, fourth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School, said. “They've caught onto things so much faster. It's just an awesome learning opportunity for them. A lot of those experiences I won't be able to recreate.”

Whitacre is a program instructor at the Salina location and has seen many McPherson County students learn through the program.

Some schools from the state have told her Starbase is their class' science instruction for the year.

“It's just materials, supplies and teaching that schools don't have the resources and supplies for,” she said. “Elementary teachers aren't experts in every area. We kind of fill that gap.”

The program also allows students to be exposed to career possibilities.

“They've walked out with an idea of what they want to be,” she said. “Who knows, some child might have walked out of here and said they want to be a rocket scientist.”

About 1,200 students visit Kansas Starbase hubs in an average year. Razak said she is sad to see this educational tool disappear.

“Not only on a teacher level, but a parent level, I'm very upset,” she said.

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel