Navy Inspires Future Generations Through STEM Outreach
by U.S. Navy Katherine Mapp
Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division
May 1, 2019
Civil service and military personnel from Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) and Navy Experimental Diving Unit devoted their time with students at Girls Inc. on January 30, 2019 to demonstrate a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) positions held at the local Navy base.
Approximately 45 students, ranging from elementary to middle school age, divided into groups and experienced hands-on displays and activities mentored by scientists and engineers from various STEM disciplines.
According to Paige George, NSWC PCD STEM outreach programs manager, interacting with students beginning at the elementary and middle school level is critical. George said as the need for STEM graduates increases every year, the students enrolling in STEM related major’s decreases.
Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Outreach Programs Manager Paige George (left) and Mechanical Engineer Allie Williams (right) describe diving and life support systems capabilities at a Girls Inc. STEM outreach event Jan. 30, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Katherine Mapp)
“We need qualified scientists and engineers to fulfill the mission of supporting the warfighter of the future. It is up to us to get young people excited about STEM at an early age to set them on a path of earning a degree in STEM,” said George. “Events such as this give young people the opportunity to meet professionals in the various fields of the Department of Defense [DoD] so they can see the exciting work that awaits them if they decide to pursue a STEM education.”
NSWC PCD Mechanical Engineer Allie Williams, who presented diving and life support demonstrations, said her goal is to motivate and inspire students to pursue any career they desire.
“It is important to encourage any young girl or boy that they can grow up to do anything they want, and there is no limit on what they can achieve. I think some girls feel more intimidated or at a disadvantage when interested in a STEM field, and I’d like to change that perception,” said Williams. “I’d never want anyone to feel like some things aren’t possible for them. There is always a way.”
Myranda Chapman, NSWC PCD scientist, felt compelled to serve at this event to demonstrate the importance of math.
Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Scientist Myranda Chapman (center) observes students participating in a mock wargame between princesses and villains during a Girls Inc. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics outreach event Jan. 30, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Katherine Mapp)
“Math is often a subject that is negatively viewed. Showing that there are fun, important, and relatable ways to use math is a great positive influence on the student’s perspectives, especially the younger girls,” said Chapman. “These girls are still developing perceptions on how they feel about learning subjects in general, so this is the perfect opportunity to show them that math can be both enjoyable and beneficial. It is my hope that after this event, I will have opened at least one student’s mind to the fun of math.”
Chapman designed a princess versus villains wargame exercise for the event to show students training techniques Fleet users implement through their decision making process, as well as understanding the significance of the Fleet receiving this training.
Nicole Waters, NSWC PCD engineer and test director presented the STEM aspect of test and evaluation, while showcasing a remotely operated vehicle. Waters believes STEM events are important to become involved in to make a great impact for future generations.
“As a female engineer, I feel it is my duty to get more girls interested in the areas of STEM. Many children may come from different backgrounds and think college may be out of the picture for them. I come from a similar background and want to show them anything is possible,” said Waters. “We need to reach out into our community and empower students to get involved in STEM. As DoD employees, these students are the future of our command and we want to ensure the best and brightest help protect our Navy for generations to come.”