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Naval STEM Highlights Student Outreach 2021 Efforts
by U.S. Navy Warren Duffie, Office of Naval Research
December 27, 2021

The 2021 year was busy ... as the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) Naval STEM Coordination Office, which is located at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), expanded its offerings for high school and college students.

Office of Naval Research LogoThese activities included a flight academy; a virtual question-and-answer event with astronauts working at the International Space Station; and an online essay contest aimed at introducing students to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics impacting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

“Naval STEM aims to inspire, cultivate and develop exceptional talent by providing a continuum of opportunities for students,” said Chief of Naval Research (CNR) Rear Adm. Lorin C. Selby. “This empowers them to apply their academic knowledge in a real-world context through internships and summer programs, conducted both virtually and at naval facilities.”

The DoN Naval STEM Coordination Office oversees investments in education, outreach and workforce initiatives. This enables the U.S. to cultivate the technical workforce needed to keep the Navy and Marine Corps on the leading edge of scientific and technological innovation.

“Naval STEM professionals at DoN laboratories and centers provide unique STEM experiences to students and educators to supplement the knowledge, skills and abilities developed in the classroom and school setting,” said Sandy Landsberg, who is both the Naval STEM Coordination Office executive and a division director in ONR’s Information, Cyber and Spectrum Superiority Department.

Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (NSMRL) summer student interns with NSMRL staff show their projects on August 12, 2021. Each summer, NSMRL hosts high school and college interns through the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) and Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program (NREIP). (U.S. Navy photo by Erica Casper)
Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (NSMRL) summer student interns with NSMRL staff show their projects on August 12, 2021. Each summer, NSMRL hosts high school and college interns through the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) and Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program (NREIP). (U.S. Navy photo by Erica Casper)

“The chance for students to put what they learn into practice benefits both them and the DoN,” Landsberg continued. “This application of their knowledge could potentially result in solutions to real-world, naval challenges.”

Some Naval STEM highlights include:

1. Virtual and hybrid options to ONR's Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) and Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP). These are the DoN’s premier STEM internship programs and have been traditionally in-person initiatives. NREIP is a 10-week undergraduate and graduate research internship opportunity at one of nearly 30 naval laboratories or warfare centers. SEAP is an eight-week high school apprenticeship opportunity at one of nearly 25 naval laboratories or warfare centers. This summer, 570 college interns participated in NREIP and 176 high school interns in SEAP. Both programs also unveiled new websites and social media sites this year.

2. NREIP Fall Engagement. NRIEP Fall engagement was a short-term virtual internship designed to introduce college students to cutting-edge naval science and technology research. The internship also provided students mentoring with DoN scientists and engineers. This internship is a spin-off of NREIP and broadens student participation by offering the opportunity to students who were not accepted into NREIP or had to decline the NREIP offer. This year’s program served over 200 students across 15 Navy laboratories and warfare centers.

3. The Naval Horizons student essay contest. This initiative was designed to introduce high school and college students to cutting-edge topics impacting the Navy and Marine Corps. It does so through engaging online videos covering more than 20 research areas—including autonomy, oceanography, cybersecurity and undersea medicine. The video series highlights a diverse set of naval scientists, engineers and interns who discuss their work to increase awareness of naval S&T challenges.

This past summer, a second contest was held, where high school students watched the videos and then submitted a short essay explaining how they were inspired by naval research and the naval workforce. Broad participation resulted in more than 9,000 video views and over 400 students selected as winners of cash prizes. Moreover, participation of underrepresented students was significant.

4. Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) Flight Academy. This new effort, in partnership with the Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Commander, Naval Air Forces is an eight-week program that offered students affiliated with NJROTC the opportunity to earn a Federal Aviation Administration private pilot’s license. Four students, none of whom had prior flight experience, earned their licenses. The STEM curriculum included aviation academics (weather, human factors design, etc.) as well as 45 hours of flight training, including 17 hours of solo flying.

5. National Intern Day Astronaut Downlink. Naval STEM coordinated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in honor of National Intern Day on July 29. NASA hosted a downlink conversation with astronauts serving at the International Space Station. The astronauts answered questions submitted to Naval STEM by NREIP and SEAP interns from five naval laboratories and warfare centers.

6. National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship Conference. Naval STEM, DoN executives and senior research scientists participated in the 2nd Annual NDSEG Fellowship Conference in July. The Department of Defense (DoD) Fellowship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force to promote science and engineering education, by awarding fellowships to promising U.S. scientists to pursue doctoral degrees in STEM research disciplines.

The conference provided fellowship recipients with the opportunity to meet and network with current and former fellows, as well as DoD senior officials and scientists and engineers. Attendees also learned about DoD employment, internships, mentorships and other research funding opportunities. DoN highlights included overviews of the Naval Research Enterprise and Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), given respectively by Dr. Jason Stack—ONR director for Ocean, Atmosphere and Space Research, and chair of the Intelligent Autonomous Systems Strategy Development Team—and Dr. Bruce Danly, NRL director of research.

7. 59th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (NJSHS). In April, Naval STEM participated in the NJSHS, providing science fair judges sponsorship, and congratulatory remarks from CNR Selby during the awards ceremony. JSHS is a DoD program encouraging high school students to conduct research, collaborate with mentors and experts, and grow their skills and talents. NJSHS brings together top students who qualify by presenting original scientific research papers at regional symposia. All regional finalists are invited to present their research at the NJSHS to compete for scholarships and cash awards. This year, over $200,000 was awarded to 48 winners in the oral and poster competitions.

8. Participation in the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space STEM Exposition on Aug. 1. DoN hosted 10 booths with hands-on STEM activities geared toward students in grades five through 12. The engagement provided an opportunity to introduce students to the DoN as well as STEM topics and challenges that impact the Navy. Since this was the first in-person STEM event the Naval STEM team had participated in since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it included new protocols to ensure the health and safety of all participants.

9. DoD STEM Education and Outreach Advocate of the Quarter (SAQ) Winners. Each quarter, DoD STEM recognizes exceptional civilians, uniformed personnel or teams who have gone above and beyond in STEM education and outreach with the DoD SAQ award. Only four awards are given each year. In 2021, the DoN received two awards.

10. Buffalo Navy Week and Columbia Navy Week. Navy Weeks serve as outreach efforts to educate Americans about how the Navy is deployed around the world and why a strong Navy is vital to protecting the American way of life. This year, Naval STEM coordinated with the Navy Office of Community Outreach and the U.S. Naval Academy to host STEM outreach for elementary through high school students and educators during the Buffalo (New York) and Columbia (South Carolina) Navy Weeks. Integrating Naval STEM content into the Navy Weeks introduces students to science and technology careers supporting DoN.

11. Freshman Scholar Transition to Academic Research and Technology (FreshSTART). FreshSTART is a five-week Naval Summer Bridge Boot Camp launched by the DoN Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) Program, located at ONR. FreshSTART hosts incoming HBCU/MI freshmen interested in earning an undergraduate degree in a STEM discipline. It provides students with intense exposure to a STEM course workload and activities, with the goal of increasing academic success during the freshman year. Courses include chemistry, physics, calculus, computer programming and “soft skills” such as public speaking, networking and professional development. Florida A&M University hosted the pilot program virtually with the intent of expanding it onsite as well as at other minority-serving institutions.

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Warren Duffie Jr. is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

Learn More About Naval STEM

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