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Girl Scouts Tour NSWC Philadelphia Test Sites and Labs

By Keegan Rammel, NSWCPD Public Affairs | NSWCPD | Aug. 19, 2019

Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) hosted middle and high school girls during the annual Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania (GSEP) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Experience Summer Camp on August 15.

The visit to NSWCPD was the capstone of the summer camp. During the visit the scouts toured the Command’s test sites and labs, attended a career panel featuring some of NSWCPD’s female leadership, and presented their projects to the command’s engineers.

The camp, which NSWCPD has been hosting with Jefferson University and GSEP since 2012, provides scouts with the opportunity to visualize civilian career opportunities available for women within the Navy. 
The day kicked off with a panel featuring some of the Command’s female engineers including Jamie Gates, Karen Schull-Archer, Susan Carter, Allison Hollish, Megan Pierce, and Catherine Hacking.

The panelists shared their stories of how they became interested in a STEM career, advice on how to succeed in the male-dominated field of engineering, and how to prepare for college.

“Don’t listen to the naysayers, or anyone who says you can’t succeed in STEM,” Schull-Archer told the participants. “When I was in college, my professor told my mother that women don’t make it in science. It made me double down; I got an “A” in chemistry that year.”

The panelists also made the point that the students needed to make sure they mentor each other so that they all make it through college and into their careers.

“Make sure to lift each other up,” Pierce said. “Make sure you are all allies to each other.”

Prior to the visit to NSWCPD, the summer camp participants worked with mentors and college professors on projects that created a solution to a real life problem impacting the Navy. 

Dr. Fernando Tovia, an industrial engineer and associate professor at Jefferson University and the program’s director, uses the projects to immerse the campers in the business side of engineering. The students don’t just create a product, but an entire company. They create a business plan, mission statements, and even job postings to learn salary information for engineers.

“The name of the camp is STEM Experience Summer Camp. There’s enough research and studies that show that these STEM experiences create pipelines to STEM careers,” Tovia said. “We have seen great success with getting these participants into the STEM field. Some of our former students are currently employees of the Navy.” 

NSWCPD has committed to STEM outreach across the Greater Philadelphia Area and the nation to create a talent pipeline to get prospective employees interested in a career in the Navy. This effort is in line with Naval Sea Systems Command’s Campaign Plan to Expand the Advantage 2.0.

“The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Experience Summer Camp provides a unique immersive STEM education opportunity to women in 7th – 9th grades from underserved and underrepresented communities across Philadelphia,” said Tristan Wolfe, NSWCPD’s STEM Outreach coordinator. “These students have learned about power and energy systems, control systems, computer programming, mechanics, and more during their time in this camp – all specific technical skills that NSWCPD employs and hopes to attract in the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Summer campers had the opportunity to tour NSWCPD’s High Temperature Superconducting lab, learn how the Navy utilizes 3-D scanning and manufacturing in the Advanced Data Acquisition Prototyping Technology & Virtual Environments (ADAPT.VE) lab, and discover how the Navy tests shipboard equipment in the Shock & Vibration lab.

After the tours, Tovia highlighted internship opportunities with NSWCPD through the Office of Naval Research Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP) and the Department of Defense Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship. These programs would give the students the opportunity to work at NSWCPD, or another Navy-activity, for the summer and help them pay for their college degrees.

“You are on the right track since you’ve all decided to come here,” said Dawn Ware, NSWCPD’s Machinery Research, Logistics and Ship Integrity Department head. Ware, who was a Girl Scout growing up, told the scouts to keep pursuing STEM and to not give up.

“We are here if you ever have any questions or need a mentor in the future,” Ware said.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,600 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.