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NEWS | Feb. 27, 2024

Carderock Welcomes DoD STEM Ambassadors to West Bethesda

By Edvin Hernandez, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division opened its gates in West Bethesda, Maryland, to Department of Defense (DoD) science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) Ambassadors on Feb. 22, 2024. The DoD STEM Ambassadors Program consists of high-performing educators around the country and provides them with a unique, enriching opportunity to create and curate new STEM learning resources for students nationwide. Additionally, the program is executed by the TGR Foundation, a DoD STEM Education Consortium Partner, with emphasis on supporting committed educators working with students who have been historically underrepresented in STEM.

“These teachers are influencers in their communities and with their students,” Kathleen Miranda said, a program officer in the Naval STEM Coordination Office. “We want to teach them more about our resources and programs that are available to them, and have them bring that home to their local communities.”

This year’s cohort, which includes more than 20 educators, toured some of Carderock’s state-of-the-art facilities for the first time ever in the program’s history, including the Waste Water Management Lab, Additive Manufacturing Research Lab and the David Taylor Model Basin. This is also the first time the cohort meets each other in person.

 “Carderock arranged a tour of their unique labs and we are all pretty proud of bringing them onboard to see this naval facility,” Miranda said. “The teachers are getting an exclusive peek behind the Navy and Marine Corps curtain by visiting this base and we are committed to helping them improve their curriculum for all students.”

The command’s STEM and Outreach Program, which is spearheaded by STEM and Outreach Coordinator Charlotte George and Community Outreach and Student Engagement Coordinator Ashlee Floyd, shared Carderock’s Seaworthy STEM-in-a-Box initiative to DoD STEM Ambassadors. STEM-In-a-Box provides enhanced, naval-relevant hands-on activities to K-12 teachers and students. Its purpose is to guide students through the engineering design process and support teachers as they select content, acquire materials and implement engaging activities in their classrooms.

Although the STEM-In-a-Box kits have mainly catered to elementary and middle school students, George and Floyd have recently ramped up their efforts to develop the curriculum for high school students. Carderock, which proudly sponsors and supports DoD Einstein Fellows, has created a new STEM activity for high school students with the help of its former Einstein Fellow Tom Jenkins and its current Fellow Melissa Thompson.

“Tom had all these wonderful high school ideas and I took those ideas and flew out to another Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, California, with Ashlee,” Thompson said. “Ashlee, Tom and I all collaborated and we came up with a quarter-worth of material. From that, we created 10 lessons – week long lessons – that not only provided an engineering challenge for the students, but also gave them an opportunity to tie it all back to the real world.”

Part of this joint effort led to the development of the command’s newest high school lesson called “Fish Mouth.” The activity was used as a hands-on demonstration for visiting DoD STEM Ambassadors. The objective was to create a fish mouth-like contraption to rescue a LEGO figure from a container filled of water. Educators were given low-cost supplies such as rubber bands, paperclips, plastic cups and more to build their device. Thompson and Floyd encouraged educators to be creative in their design and shared their tips for motivating students to do the same.

Thompson, who is also an educator for Baltimore City Public Schools, said her vision for these Carderock STEM initiatives is to inspire kids to pursue a technical career and understand the educational requirements needed to succeed in the field. To help capture interest in STEM among younger students, Thompson created 52 Career Workforce Trading Cards that are specific to the Navy and include position salaries, academic degrees and photos on the job.

“My vision for this is to create some excitement about this world,” she said. “If they’re excited about this – just like Pokémon – they’ll jump into it and really become engaged. We have added one-paged career portfolios that are age appropriate, too. Students can read about a career at their level and answer guided questions. We want to spread this material to as many teachers as we can and increase engagement. We always welcome feedback because we want to keep making these resources better.”

Carderock’s Technical Director Lawrence Tarasek praised the cohort for the impact they are making on the next generation of technical professionals.

“Our goal is to have more students experience what it is like to work for a government facility, that’s incredibly important,” Tarasek said. “It’s top to bottom. Without the work that you folks do, it would be increasingly challenging to solve the Navy’s problems. We do not want to wake up one day and realize we don’t have the workforce or talent to meet demands. That is why we appreciate the difference you all are making around the country.”

Commanding Officer (CO) Capt. Matthew Tardy watched DoD STEM Ambassadors test their device and delivered closing remarks.

“I am deeply appreciative of your careers and what you do for the children,” Tardy said. “My wife is an elementary school teacher for Fairfax County and I fully understand all the things you all have to do – with lesson planning and everything – to prepare for the next day. Today’s teachers are preparing tomorrow’s engineers who will help protect our Sailors and improve our naval capabilities. Sometimes it is hard to think about the future generations and how your actions are going to affect them. But what you all are doing now, will ripple on for decades. Thank you for visiting our Warfare Center and, more importantly, thank you for all you do in service of our students.”

For more information about the Seaworthy STEM Curriculum, visit the Naval STEM Website at