PANAMA CITY, Fla. —
Navy physicists and engineers collaborated with local-area teachers to host the annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Summer Camp for rising 9th to 12th grade high school students last week, held from June 24 to June 28.
Panama City STEM Institute Director Ginger Littleton said it was the second camp to follow the previous week’s camp for rising 6th to 9th ninth grade middle school students.
“This camp is possible because of a partnership between the U.S. Navy and our local area academic schools, colleges and universities,” Littleton said. “Because America has not been able to produce enough STEM graduates, we’ve had to hire foreign nationals to fill our country’s need for STEM career-professionals.”
According to Littleton, this year’s STEM camp theme was studying Category 5 hurricanes, their destructive forces and much of the engineering-based cleanup required from these storms’ aftermath.
“Since most of our students are still living with the cleanup and rebuilding caused by Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall last October, we structured our curriculum based on that because it’s something most students will never forget,” said Littleton.
Dan Flisek, physicist for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) and a Master Teacher at this year’s camp said the Category 5 Hurricane theme allows teaching several STEM-related sciences.
“We have several areas of learning that we can relate to these storms and much of the post-storm cleanup that is required,” said Flisek. “For instance, our classes this year include: meteorology, electrical engineering, civil engineering, chemistry, and physics.”
Miles Taylor, a tenth-grade participant said camp captured his interests due to this year’s theme.
“I think it’s been interesting because it helps us to understand why we witnessed what happened during the storm,” said Taylor. “And I really like all the classes they have and how they incorporate the different sciences that teach us why certain storm activities occurred.”
Flisek said it wasn’t hard to relate the various class subjects to experiences the students could identify with, especially because of them being storm related.
“For example, I brought a water-quality report that comes from the City of Lynn Haven that I got a few days ago,” said Flisek. “So I was able to show the students how the storm blew in a lot of debris and pollutants into our water reservoirs. It was easy then to relate to them how there are people actually working in these chemistry-related careers.”
According to Flisek these STEM Summer Camps are inspiring students to become interested in possibly working in these careers.
“The proof was present, not only in those registered to participate, but also because of how many STEM Summer Camp veterans were returning to volunteer as helpers,” said Flisek.
Flisek’s assisting student helper, Summer Bernstein, has not only been a “STEM camper” twice, but also is dual-enrolled as a high school senior attending Gulf Coast State College. In addition to this, she is currently working as one of NSWC PCD’s High School Interns.
“I’ve been participating in the STEM Summer Camps for two years and I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Bernstein. “When Paige George, NSWC PCD’s education liaison, informed those of us working as interns we had the opportunity to help out with the STEM camp this year, I was definitely interested. My involvement with STEM activities has really inspired me to find out what a high school internship at the Navy laboratory would be like,” said Bernstein.
When asked how well the STEM Summer Camp is doing in actually teaching these engineering-related principles, Bernstein gave, “a strong affirmative.”
“It’s similar to getting the hands-on approach we’re exposed to in the Navy internships,” said Bernstein. “The Navy lab has given us a project that the government needs. So by the very nature of practicing engineering principles, it’s teaching us that there is always a way to keep advancing the design of projects for the sake of continuous improvement.”