DAHLGREN, Va. (NNS - 6/28/2012) -- Middle school students are
using their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills
to solve problems of Navy interest at the National Defense Education
Program (NDEP) Virginia Demonstration Project (VDP) Summer Academy,
DAHLGREN, Va. (June 25, 2012) Capt. Michael Smith, the Naval Surface
Warfare Center Dahlgren division commander, observes a science,
technology, engineering and mathematics summer academy team design a
technological project. The team members are among over 100 students
engaged in the summer camp. U.S. Navy photo by John Joyce
More than 100 students joined their mentors - 19 Navy
scientists and engineers - to work on STEM summer camp
activities and projects impacting simulated naval robotic
missions at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.
is a wonderful opportunity for a middle school student to
learn about and receive hands-on experience to as many STEM
careers as possible in one week," said Jane Bachman, VDP
STEM Dahlgren Academy director. "If students learn of a new
STEM career interest or perhaps confirm their current STEM
career interest - it affords them the opportunity to begin
making plans for the courses they need to take in their high
Navy officials - including Capt.
Michael Smith, Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division
(NSWCDD) commander - anticipate that the students may one
day use their STEM skills at Naval Warfare Center
laboratories to design future technologies supporting U.S.
warfighters and America's homeland defense and security.
"In order to do the actual engineering work - the
calculations and the interesting stuff working as part of a
team -you really need to be grounded in the sciences," Smith
told the students. "During the week, you'll be exposed to a
bunch of different projects and we hope it will whet your
appetite so that you will really want to end up being an
engineer and get to do some of the cool things that we get
to do here."
The NDEP VDP goal is to increase the
attraction of the Navy's Warfare Centers and Shipyards as an
eventual place of employment for students participating in
Smith played videos featuring research,
development, testing and evaluation conducted at NSWC
Dahlgren that included unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned
surface vehicles, Tomahawk and ballistic missiles launched
from submarines, littoral combat ship gun systems, and the
As students watched a video
clip, Smith explained how railgun works.
"It's a gun
that uses electricity to push a bullet out of the barrel
without using gun powder," said Smith. "It has two copper
rails and if you put several million amps through those
rails with a bullet inside, it will push it out very fast -
much faster than you can get with a gun charge. Here's one
of the projectiles we shot. You can see how hot it is
because of the speed. The friction of the air is making it
hot and it's going about mach five or six at this point."
As an explosion filled the video screen when the
projectile hit a watermelon target, a surprised student
said, "you hit a watermelon at mach six!"
Immediately after the brief, students began designing,
building and testing their own technological projects.
The Navy mentors are working with 18 teachers from five
Virginia middle school systems throughout the week to
challenge students with scenarios mimicking real engineering
"It is amazing to watch the excitement of
the kids when they complete a mission, or when they learn a
new concept," said Aimee Ketner, an NSWCDD Asymmetric
Defense Systems Department engineer. "I am excited to
provide the kids with my perspective and present them with
information on how to pursue their interests."
"Getting our kids at the middle-school age to see the fun of
discovery and critical thinking is the right step to getting
them to want to learn and do more," said Thomas Holland, an
NSWCDD Engagement Systems Department senior engineer. "One
of the students I mentored once told me that the program,
'made me want to know about things I never wanted to know
about before.' You can't beat that. Inspiring our next
generation of scientific leaders is a way for me to give
back and I am very proud to be part of this effort."
The program teams up teachers with practicing scientists and
engineers such as Ketner and Holland from the mentor-rich
environment at the Naval Warfare Centers. During the school
year, science and math themes featuring robotics problems
are integrated throughout the curriculum.
the College of William and Mary impacted VDP and the summer
camp by developing a curriculum for students who learn about
STEM at military bases and providing training to Navy
Warfare Center mentors. NDEP's VDP process is more than
students learning how to program robots or build, assemble
and demonstrate the projects. It's also about team building
and is all inclusive.
"It is important to provide
encouragement and stimulation to our young people regarding
the field of science," said Bachman, an NSWCDD Human
Performance in Simulation lead engineer. "The working
environment experience where students can sense the why,
what and how things are done through interaction with
scientists and engineers can benefit them when making their
future career decisions."
NDEP VDP originated under
the Office of Naval Research (ONR) N-STAR (Naval Research -
Science and Technology for America's Readiness), a science
and technology workforce development program launched in
2004 by the Office of Naval Research. It was initiated to
show a diversity of pre-teens and teens that math, science
and engineering are fascinating, fun and socially relevant.
Since its inception, VDP's ultimate goal has been to
establish educational outreach programs at other Navy
research and development centers throughout the country.
The initiative could eventually expand beyond the Navy
and evolve into a national demonstration project
encompassing all Department of Defense laboratories in a
sustained effort to secure the long-term competitiveness of
America's science and technology workforce by hooking more
kids on math and science at an earlier age. As a result, the
number of students earning university degrees in science,
mathematics, engineering, and technology is expected to
By John J. Joyce
Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren
Division Corporate Communications
Navy News Service
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