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NSWC Panama City fosters STEM outreach though invention convention competition

By Katherine Mapp | NSWC PCD Public Affairs | March 5, 2020

PANAMA CITY, Fla. —

Scientists and engineers from Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) supported the third annual Invention Convention (IC) March 5 at Gulf Coast State College (GCSC).

The 2020 Invention Convention replaced science fairs for middle and high school students in Bay County. Students had the opportunity to turn their invention ideas into reality and demonstrate the creative side of science. The goal of the event was to make science accessible to everyone, regardless of cost.

Throughout the year, NSWC PCD personnel mentored students at schools in the local area to help bring their invention concepts to life while providing lessons learned and best practices.

Paige George, NSWC PCD STEM outreach coordinator, said it is important to invest in our students’ STEM education at an early age.

“These students are the future of our country,” said George. “Getting students involved in STEM outreach opportunities at an early age encourages them to reach for their goals while also supporting the mission of the Navy by maintaining a pipeline of scientists and engineers to join the workforce.”

Tyler Balding, NSWC PCD chemical engineer and IC mentor, said he supported because he wanted to become involved in STEM outreach.

“Being involved in STEM outreach is rewarding,” said Balding” “I believe it's important for kids to participate in events like this because it gives them a chance to test their ideas and see how the process of inventing, testing, and marketing your idea goes.”

Minnie Kinard, NSWC PCD engineer and IC mentor, said she supported the competition because she loves STEM outreach.

“I grew up in Panama City; I feel fortunate to be able to encourage the students in Bay District Schools through these events that are sponsored by NSWC PCD,” said Kinard. “Just as I was mentored throughout middle and high school by engineers and scientists, I hope I can pass down that inspiration to a student who is unsure if they are capable of having a career in the STEM field.”

Kinard added that it is important for students to be engaged in these types of opportunity for personal growth.

“The Invention Convention gives students the ability to continuously improve their inventions, year after year,” said Kinard. “While competing against other students in their category will benefit them, I think the real growth opportunity will come from improving their own design iterations as they learn more in school and in their personal research.”

Both Kinard and Balding served as judges at this year’s event.

The event was made possible as part of collaborative Education Partnership Agreements between NSWC PCD, GCSC, and Bay District Schools. Winners from the regional fair will have the opportunity to compete in the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. at the end of May.