Hackathon Encourages Youth Critical Thinking
by U.S. Navy Sarah Glinski, Naval Supply Systems Command
November 3, 2019
How would you save the city of Philadelphia from a disastrous flood of the Delaware River?
Students aged 14-21 answered that question at a Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS)-sponsored “hackathon” called the River Rise Challenge, which took place at the Independence Seaport Museum on September 7, 2019.
September 7, 2019 - Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support Educating Acquisition, Global Logistics and Engineering (EAGLE) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program civilian technical lead, Lauren Kott, explains how a robot part works to students at the River Rise Challenge at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. Kott represented the EAGLE STEM program at a booth designed to showcase the skills EAGLE students learn during their four years in the program in high school. (U.S. Navy photo by Maddie Klebe)
Working in teams, students had an hour to brainstorm an innovative approach to contingency logistics operations prior to, during and after the simulated emergency, stimulating their critical thinking and creativity.
“At NAVSUP WSS, we rely on our engineers to make changes to parts and systems on aircraft, ships and submarines to keep our naval forces mission ready,” said Scott Morrow, NAVSUP WSS deputy director of Engineering and Product Support, at the River Rise Challenge kickoff. “We need the brightest minds to ensure that we remain the world’s strongest Navy. That’s why we’re here today, empowering and increasing the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
Students—including two teams from the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps—were asked to design a disaster plan, a prototype or a web/mobile application that would mitigate risk from such a disaster. They then presented their solutions to a panel of judges in a quest to win first prize.
September 7, 2019 - Students from the School District of Philadelphia work on a solution to the River Rise Challenge at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. At the Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support sponsored event, participants were asked to design an emergency plan, a web/mobile app or a prototype design in response to a simulated flood of the Delaware River. (U.S. Navy photo by Maddie Klebe)
“While science and technology are extremely important aspects of any disaster relief effort, we wanted to encourage creativity at all skill levels, with all interests,” said Cmdr. Maxine Gardner, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program lead at NAVSUP WSS and creator of the event. “New, creative ideas are always worth exploring, no matter where they come from.”
There was no shortage of out-of-the-box ideas, from zip code-specific emergency alerts and vacuum trucks to a “Bat Signal”-like beacon that would tell citizens to tune into their radios or televisions. And while each presentation was different, they all had one similarity: each team came up with an idea that would help people with disabilities or special needs.
Solutions were judged on application, design, functionality and innovation. In the end, three teams won four prizes, with a U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps team walking away with both the Best Contingency/Disaster Plan and the Rising Star Award. Their disaster plan included trash removal, sanitation and medical aid.
“We’re very proud of all of the students who participated today,” said Lauren Kott, NAVSUP WSS STEM program civilian technical lead. “This was a hands-on event, and it’s obvious that everyone put some serious thought into their solutions.”
On November 3, 2014, NAVSUP WSS and Independence Seaport Museum announced a partnership to guide high school students towards STEM-related occupations through their Educating Acquisition, Global Logistics and Engineering (EAGLE) program. The alliance came in response to the high demand for STEM graduates and the low numbers of students pursuing or receiving STEM-related degrees in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. The River Rise Challenge functioned as an inspiration and awareness campaign in advancement of the partnership’s goal.
A field activity of the Naval Supply Systems Command, NAVSUP WSS is the U.S. Navy’s supply chain manager providing worldwide support to the aviation, surface ship and submarine communities. NAVSUP WSS provides Navy, Marine Corps, joint and allied forces with products and services that deliver combat capability through logistics. As the Navy’s single Program Support Inventory Control Point (PSICP), NAVSUP WSS specializes in integrated logistics support planning, forecasting, requisition processing, provisioning, allowance development, configuration and repairables management and more.
There are more than 2,000 civilian and military personnel employed at its two Pennsylvania sites, and one site in Norfolk, Va. The NAVSUP WSS Philadelphia site supports aircraft, its Mechanicsburg site supports ships and submarines and the Norfolk site provides cost analysis and transportation/distribution services.
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