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Home : Media : News
NEWS | Feb. 12, 2024

NSWC Dahlgren Division joins partners in hosting inaugural Innovation Challenge @ Dahlgren: Middle School Robotics event

By Dave Ellis and Morgan Tabor, NSWCDD Corporate Communications

When Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) world-class scientists and engineers aren’t focused on developing the latest technology for the nation’s warfighters, they turn their attention to sharing their knowledge and expertise with the younger generations in their communities. NSWCDD leadership created a series of innovation challenges led by its expert workforce to develop the STEM warriors of the future.

The newest challenge promoted STEM to the youngest competition group yet. The Innovation Challenge @ Dahlgren: Middle School Robotics was held February 10 at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Dahlgren Campus in partnership with UMW, Fredericksburg Regional Military Affairs Council, King George Economic Development Authority, The MITRE Corporation and SimVentions.

UMW Director of the Dahlgren Center for Education and Research Dr. Michael Hubbard kicked off the event. “Technology is advancing rapidly and becoming increasingly important in our current world and STEM education plays a vital role in securing the future of our nation,” he said. “Investing in the development of these students, who are the future superheroes of our great nation, will yield an unimaginable return on investment.”

Over 120 students formed 15 teams from 10 schools representing 10 school districts programmed robots to complete missions ranging from rescue to chemical cleanup while navigating terrain features on a map. NSWCDD STEM mentors, advocates and volunteers provided students with expert help throughout the competition.

King George native Tyler Truslow benefited greatly from growing up near the Navy’s largest STEM hub. After taking advantage of internship and tuition assistance programs, Truslow began a career at NSWCDD as a scientist and now serves as its K-12 STEM coordinator. A grateful Truslow looks to pay it forward. “NSWCDD provided me with so many opportunities that led me to where I am today,” he said. “Now, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to be the one to promote STEM careers at Dahlgren to a new generation.”

NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Philip Mlynarski and Technical Director Dale Sisson Jr., P.E., SES, announced the winners at the end of the competition. Caroline Middle School earned first place, followed by James H. Carey Intermediate School in second and A.G. Wright’s first team won third.

Caroline Middle School offered the key to their success to future innovation challenge competitors. “Work as a team and divide the work,” said teammate Seth Iddins.

The division announced the champion who took home a plaque to their school and individual plaques for the team members. Each school will get a LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Prime Set and a 3-D print.

NSWCDD will host the third annual high school innovation challenge in March and its second collegiate challenge in April. Last November, the warfare center held its first industry innovation challenge. The events are critical to the Potomac Tech Bridge’s strategy to provide solutions to the challenges faced by our Marines and Sailors. By working with regional academic institutions, industry and small businesses, the tech bridge seeks to build a community of innovators.

Sisson credited the effort of the NSWCDD team for the success of the innovation challenge and what it means for the future of the students who competed. “We’ll continue to focus on engaging our students early and often to think about math, science and engineering,” said Sisson. “This is our starting point to engage them. Hopefully, they will participate in the high school challenges and eventually become interns for us here at Dahlgren. Getting them interested in STEM careers while they’re young is so important for us here in the United States, and certainly for us at NSWCDD.”