CRANE, Ind. – When Lorna Troutman became a volunteer for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), her first endeavor was standing up a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) program at Shoals Community School.
This year, Troutman’s leadership guided Shoals to a fourth consecutive trip to the State FLL competition.
Because of Troutman’s commitment – and the support of NSWC Crane and the Shoals school district – the FLL program at Shoals has become quite a success. Shoals earned three awards in this year’s FLL state championship at the University of Southern Indiana on Dec. 2. The RoboRox team received the Project Research Award, and the RoxStars team received both the Strategy & Innovation Award as well as the Robot Performance Award.
Troutman, a six-year STEM volunteer, started small, launching the FLL at Shoals with one full team of 10 students. She knew she’d be learning right along with the students for the first year of the program, but that didn’t deter her from giving it a shot.
“The kids really begin to identify with their ability to learn. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about making kids understand they have a lot more talent than they realize.”
According to the FLL website, 88 percent of FLL participants report being more interested in doing well in school, and 87 percent report having more interest in attending college.
The FLL was designed to provide kids a fun way to learn to apply STEM concepts, while also developing critical thinking, communication, and team-building skills they will use for the rest of their lives. The FLL features teams of up to 10 students from between 4th and 8th grade that research a real-world problem such as food safety, recycling, energy, etc., and are challenged to develop a solution.
Troutman’s STEM-related efforts, have led to a regular STEM night, and the school has dedicated a room just for STEM activities so they no longer have to share a space. Because of community support, the Shoals FLL program is cost-free for the kids and the parents as well.
“It’s just the excitement that they’re part of a team that can succeed – that’s what drives me to keep going. Seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces makes it all worth it.”
Troutman has big goals for the FLL program and other STEM-related efforts at Shoals. She hopes to have a Shoals FLL team reach the world championships soon, and she wants to help as many students as possible identify their interests and strengths.
Most of all, though, Troutman is determined to make students aware of the variety of career opportunities that exist right here at NSWC Crane.
“Crane is right in their backyard,” Troutman said. “My mission is to make sure they understand what’s available at Crane, and what you can do once you’re here.”
NSWC Crane has large workforce and is continuously looking to attract top talent with diverse sets of skills, disciplines and knowledge that are required to accomplish our mission to support the warfighter.
The goal of NSWC Crane’s K-12 STEM Outreach Program is to facilitate the use of NSWC Crane resources to motivate, cultivate and attract the next generation of STEM talent. The program accomplishes this by providing students and teachers with NSWC Crane scientist and engineer mentors for a variety of programs. Since the inception of its STEM program, NSWC Crane and its personnel have served over 8,000 students, 100 teachers and 100 schools.