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NSWC Dahlgren Division Kicks off 2019 STEM Summer Academy

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications | June 26, 2019

KING GEORGE, Va. – Navy engineer David Campbell returned to the summer academy that inspired him to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as a middle school student.

Campbell is one of several guest speakers who are inspiring today’s middle school students with stories about their fascinating careers and STEM opportunities at the 2019 Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) sponsored STEM Summer Academy – an annual five-day event that began June 24.

Parents and their children, as well as teachers and local officials, listened intently as the engineer shared his personal experience and knowledge about programs which lead to STEM careers. Campbell recommends opportunities available for high school students via the Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program, and for the college students – the Navy Pathways Internship Program.

Dr. Patrick Mead is another guest speaker who inspired students as the summer academy kicked off. He discussed how virtual reality and augmented reality helps the warfighter and reduces costs of programs. What’s more, several students experienced virtual reality while wearing a headset and virtually touring a room inside of a ship.

Mead began his career as a research scientist as an intern in the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program, which provides an opportunity for college students to participate in research at a Navy laboratory during the summer. Following successful completion of his first summer, he was offered a continuing internship through the base internship program, which allowed Mead to work over his winter and summer breaks while completing both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Upon completing his degrees, Mead became a full time NSWCDD employee and began working in the NSWCDD Human Systems Integration, where he discovered a passion for science, technology, research and development.

After the daily morning career talks, the students team up to overcome robotics challenges by creatively designing, building and programming robots to solve a variety of Navy focused problems that can’t be solved with STEM skills alone. The successful completion of 10 simulated missions requires continuous communication, coordination, teamwork, and lots of creativity.

“We have 70 students from Dahlgren, King George, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, and Stafford,” said Chelsey Lawson, NSWCDD STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Summer Academy coordinator, regarding Virginia counties with middle schools participating in the program this year.

The ‘coaches’ comprise 12 junior mentors – high school students who are STEM Summer Academy graduates – from Virginia’s King George, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, and Stafford counties. 

“We also have 13 scientists and engineers from Dahlgren (NSWCDD) participating as mentors and academy staff,” said Lawson. Fifteen teachers from Dahlgren, King George, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, and Stafford middle schools will be mentoring the middle school students as well.

The mentors assist student teams as they apply STEM to complete the simulated missions: rescue swimmers, rotate troops, recover ships, create a warning signal structure, recover an infrared beacon at sea, map an underwater surface, move an amphibious vehicle to a dry dock, deliver crates of humanitarian aid, build a minesweeper to locate and mark mines so that ships can avoid them, and transport an electromagnetic railgun to the deck of a Navy ship.

The STEM camp doesn’t end there. The Robotics and Automation Engineering activity with its 10 missions was just one of 10 activities that students were immersed in this week.

For example, the ‘campers’ will be firing water rockets they are constructing and calibrating in conjunction with an aerospace engineering activity. The goal for all teams is to discover the optimal amount of fuel (water in this case) required to launch the ball the highest.

Moreover, students are engaging in a civil engineering activity that involves building a balsa wood tower to meet the goal of the highest strength to weight ratio.

"It is amazing how the campers engineer their way through these various tasks,” said STEM Summer Academy director Robert Taft. “They work hard, fail quickly and productively, but in the end, the students see many successes. The NSWCDD speakers and science demonstrations tie it all together in a vision of what is possible when STEM teams work together."