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Future Inland Empire Scientists and Engineers Participate in STEPCON 2020

By Kim Longstaff, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Corporate Communications | NSWC Corona | Oct. 21, 2020

CORONA, Calif. —

The Science and Technology Education Partnership (STEP) Conference for Inland Empire students had its largest participated event and showcased Navy technology from engineers and scientists at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division Oct. 8.

NSWC Corona’s yearly participation is designed to show children how fun and lucrative a career in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines can be in hopes the early engagement will stimulate career interests from a young age. This year’s event marked its 20th anniversary and was the first to be held virtually.

“Students in grades four through 12 had the opportunity to learn about science and engineering careers while virtually attending the STEP conference,” said Karon Myles, STEM Director/Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) Director for NSWC Corona. “We hope that through this exposure, students will be inspired by the great careers and technology and will one day look into technical careers here at NSWC Corona.”

About 12,000 students attended, more than doubling the numbers over the 2019 in-person conference. While the physical event is normally held at the Bourns Technology Center in Riverside, California, Myles believes the new virtual setting allowed for a larger swath of attendees to jump online and participate, including students previously unable to attend due to funding for buses.

“The STEM pipeline is a crucial component for sustaining and growing our regional innovation ecosystem and providing that spark of imaginative engagement with students at an early age,” said Inland Empire Tech Bridge Director Troy Clarke. “It can show them the art of the possible and how STEM is applied to real-world problems. This early engagement gives students the opportunity to start planning their academic pathway to be part of the STEM workforce of tomorrow.”

NSWC Corona has been a contributor to STEP since its inception in 2000, and the Office of Naval Research identified STEP as a signature Navy outreach program for K-12 STEM in 2011.  NSWC Corona has maintained an active education partnership agreement with STEP, in line with the command’s outreach goals.

Past keynote speakers have included actors Jaime Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in outer space; Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in outer space; Astronaut Buzz Aldrin; and SpaceX and Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.

This year, registered teachers logged in to have their students visit the virtual exhibit hall, auditorium, meeting rooms and more to learn about STEM opportunities. For NSWC Corona’s portion of the conference, Clarke welcomed the students and talked about how exciting it is to work with engineers and scientists everyday on “really cool stuff.” He also talked about various Navy and Department of Defense scholarships, including the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship, which pays up to $150,000 for a student to go to college and study in STEM fields.

NSWC Corona hosted several videos at the Norco Science Experience Booth. Those included:

Daring Designer

Discussion on the science behind flying parachutes by Chief Technology Officer Taylor Cole.

“I get to run a Navy lab’s research and development investment while flying parachutes at world class levels,” he said. “Game on!”

Thermal Imaging

Electro-optics Engineer Kevin Janosky talked about how the infrared camera sees heat versus visible light and how colors indicate the different temperatures.

My Navy Engineer Journey via STEPCON

Chemical Engineer Shay Edwards talked about how he wanted to be an engineer at NSWC Corona 17 years ago as the Navy engineers advised him for his science fair project and now he’s accomplished his goal.

My STEM Field Experience

Mechanical Engineer Dominique Lechiara discussed how she always was curious about how things worked and how she went on to become a mechanical engineer for the Navy.

“With the right mindset and tools, anyone can achieve anything,” she said.

Apart from the live discussion, videos and virtual booths, students had a wealth of additional activities, puzzles and information available to them at the event.

“If we can use events like this to inspire even one student to reach their potential, access scholarships, get their education and fulfill their dreams, it will all have been worth it,” said Clarke. “If they happen to find themselves interested in fulfilling those dreams with the Navy, that’s a bonus.”

NSWC Corona Division has served as the Navy's independent assessment agent since 1964. With more than 3,800 engineers, scientists and support personnel, Sailors and contractors, NSWC Corona is located in Norco, California, with detachments in Fallbrook and Seal Beach and personnel in 14 additional locations. The Naval Sea Systems Command field activity provides transparency for warfighting readiness through data analytics and assessment, engineers the fleet’s Live Virtual Constructive training environment, and assures the accuracy of measurements as the engineering advisor for the Navy and Marine Corps metrology and calibration programs.