FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — What do Navy science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) judges have in common with the celebrity judges of American Idol?
Just as American Idol contestants get crucial career feedback from superstar judges in front of studio and national audiences, the middle school students at Chancellor Middle School received invaluable STEM guidance from their Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) judges at their school’s annual science fair, Dec. 4.
“The students’ passion for what they’ve done in STEM fuels my passion to continue growing in my own field professionally,” said Brittany Herring, NSWCDD software developer and STEM judge, after observing just how passionate and serious the students — many aspiring scientists and engineers — were about their projects.
Herring was one of seven volunteer STEM judges who selected 10 science projects from scores of experiments that will go on to compete at the Piedmont Regional Science Fair to be held at Charlottesville in March.
“The volunteers did an amazing job judging,” said Jamie Henning, a Chancellor Middle School eighth grade teacher who coordinated the science fair. “I can always depend on Navy scientists and engineers to work well with the students and provide a great experience for those that participate. Without NSWC Dahlgren volunteers, we would have a hard time getting qualified judges to come in and evaluate the projects.”
Just as American Idol judges are passionately engaged while judging and debating contestants’ talents, NSWCDD scientists and engineers debated about the STEM projects, judging how students applied the scientific method and whether the students were able to prove their hypotheses with their experiments.
“The NSWC Dahlgren judges showed our students that their projects and the skills they are learning can be used in the real world,” said Henning. “The judges talk to the students about their projects and that helps give value to their work. I truly appreciate the time they take every year to come and work with us.”
Each judge engaged about 15 students in intensive discussions about their experiments.
“I truly enjoy engaging with the students,” said Herring. “It is a very rewarding, positive experience – watching their interests in science, technology, engineering and math grow. Their passion for what they’ve done fuels my passion to continue to grow in my own field professionally.”
The Chancellor Middle School science fair is a yearly event to support the school’s science curriculum. The fair is open to all students, but it is a requirement for those completing the Honors 8 course.
The Department of the Navy provides learning opportunities from elementary school through graduate school to inspire and cultivate a diverse pool of exceptional STEM talent. Navy programs connect STEM education in the classroom to the excitement, skills, and challenges that come with safeguarding the United States.
NSWCDD supports the Navy’s STEM efforts by participating in a variety of STEM program areas.