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Local Students Compete in Ninth Annual Carderock Math Contest

By By Justin Hodge, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Public Affairs | April 19, 2018

WEST BETHESDA, Md. — More than 220 students from over 30 regional schools participated in the Ninth Annual Carderock Math Contest (CMC), April 13, at Naval Surface in Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in west Bethesda, Maryland.

The contest, part of Carderock's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach efforts, was an opportunity for students to showcase their mathematical talents in a series of individual and team MATHCOUNTS-style tests.

Capt. Mark Vandroff, Carderock's commanding officer, kicked off the event with a brief speech to the elementary and middle school children in attendance.

"Carderock is a place where math and science come together to aid in the defense of our country," Vandroff said. "We are very proud of what we do here and hope to encourage individuals in our community, and students at all levels, of the power of math."

The morning, written-test portion of the event consisted of sprint and target rounds and concluded with a team round. The top scorers in the morning competitions moved on to the main event, the oral countdown round, answering advanced math questions for speed in a bracket-style tournament.

Naama Ende, vice president of the parent-teacher organization at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia, said she was excited to be at Carderock, but even more excited to see the children interacting with their peers and the staff. 

"Many of these children have never been on a Navy base, so it's enjoyable to see them being able to meet with the commanding officer," Ende said. "It means a lot to me to see them engaged with the math contest and funny jokes on the walls, and just being able to see how much math affects their world. My children still talk about the camaraderie and fun they had when they were here years ago, because to them math is really cool." 

Students were also able to tour various facilities across Carderock to gain a better understanding of what the engineers and scientists do there every day. The David Taylor Model Basin; Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education (MAKE) Lab; and the Subsonic Wind Tunnel were a few of the highlight tours, in addition to other hands-on engineering-based activities focused on ship design.

Carderock scientists and engineers helped proctor and score the tests, lead tours and speak with the students about their careers.

In his fifth year on the CMC committee, Charles Fisher, a materials engineer with the Welding, Processing and Nondestructive Evaluation Branch (Code 611), led the team of 13 volunteers he said worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure the event was as successful and engaging as possible. 

"We want to encourage students to see how they can use the skills here at the math contest to become engineers, naval architects or ship designers," Fisher said, adding that he was very proud to be part of this event. "When I was their age I had help, and I want to pass that along so they aren't discouraged about their future. So it's not solely about the math contest, we want to keep them excited and engaged about how this can help guide their career path."

Nelson Dellis, a four-time USA Memory Champion and one of the leading memory experts in the world, was the guest speaker for the event and gave a few examples of how anyone can train their brain. 

Traveling the world as a competitive memory athlete, memory consultant, mountaineer and Alzheimer's disease activist, Dellis preaches a lifestyle that combines fitness, both mental and physical, with proper diet and social involvement.

Dellis said he was born with an average memory, but the passing of his grandmother from Alzheimer's disease in 2009 inspired him to start training his memory so that he could keep his mind strong and healthy throughout his lifespan.

"You might think I was born with this skill, but I had an average memory until about seven years ago," Dellis said. "Through techniques and practice, any one of you can do what I and other competitors do at memory competitions. Even things that seem impossible can be accomplished by anyone with a little bit of guidance." 

Nelson is the founder of Climb for Memory, a nonprofit charity that aims to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's disease research through mountain climbs all around the world, and has climbed numerous peaks for this cause, including Mt. Everest three times.

The event made a big impact on attendees both young and old.

Brian Heller, chaperone with the team from Joyce Kilmore Middle School in Vienna, Virginia, said the Carderock Math Contest continues to be a great experience for him and his team, and he hopes to continue coming back each year.

"This is kind of a well-kept secret," Heller said. "We didn't know this contest existed until last year, but I am glad we came again this year because it continues to be a well-organized event for the children to compete with teams from other schools and really interact with the scientists and engineers."