VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – More than 7,000 fifth-graders from Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Va., elementary schools filled the flight-line of Naval Air Station Oceana for its fourth annual outdoor Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field trip Sept. 20 and managed to break the Guinness World Record for the largest field trip currently on record.
More than 30 Navy civilian scientists and engineers from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) and NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity (DNA) combined their time and talents into one team. The teamwork ensured students got the opportunity to have hands-on interaction with robotics, SeaPerch submarines, and programmable Ozobots, as well as liquid nitrogen, optic lenses, and static electricity experiments, puzzles, pulley demonstrations and slime.
“I’ve been working as part of the Dam Neck STEM team for more than two years and the NAS Oceana Air Show is our largest event each year,” said Ashley Guilbault, NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity mechanical engineer and deputy STEM lead. “It is so rewarding to see the reaction on kids’ faces as they participate in all the demonstrations we do throughout the weekend.”
This year’s students had the opportunity to interact with over 40 military, government and corporate agencies such as NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity, NSWCDD, NASA, Jefferson Labs, Virginia Department of Transportation, Dominion Energy, Tidewater Community College, Old Dominion University and Public-School Academies.
The agencies provided hands-on activities that included science experiments, underwater remote-controlled vehicles, and 3D printers designed to engage, inspire and educate students in STEM.
Lauren Sencio – an electrical engineer and DNA's STEM Outreach Program lead who worked at NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity since May 2016 – has volunteered in four air shows. DNA has participated in the air show since 2013 but it gained a larger footprint when the command’s STEM Outreach team began collaborating with Dahlgren in 2017.
“DNA's STEM team wants to thank each one of our volunteers for their support with the NSWCDD & NSWCDD DNA STEM event at NAS Oceana's Air Show this past weekend,” said Sencio. “We had 7,000 plus kids come through our booth on Friday and over 200,000 people attended the air show over the course of the weekend."
Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton and Virginia Beach Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence agreed on the importance of the annual event, which fosters a strong relationship between the schools and military and continues to be a source of pride for the school systems.
"NAS Oceana Air Show’s Outreach program provides our students with a one-of-a-kind full STEM immersion, including conversations with STEM professionals, hands-on interactive displays and flight demonstrations,” said Cotton. “I am so proud of our partnership and I look forward to its continued growth.”
According to Spence, STEM day at NAS Oceana is one of the best things about being a fifth grader in Virginia Beach. "We are so grateful to our partners at NAS Oceana and the participating agencies for making this experience happen for our young learners again this year. This event provides an amazing opportunity to get hands-on, real-world STEM experience from the men and women who live it every single day."
Sencio expressed her gratitude to Ashley Guilbault, who coordinated this year's STEM event, for doing a fantastic job. "Each year the number of kids that come to the air show from the area schools grows and we continue to make the event larger," she said. "This would not be possible without the help from our volunteers in both commands and our STEM Outreach Team."