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NSWC Crane STEM Program provides virtual programming to students learning remotely, uses CRADA to help community

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | April 22, 2020

CRANE, Ind. – The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program has responded to community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home order. The STEM Program has taken their programming virtually to continue to provide educational opportunities for students and has also leveraged a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to 3-D print face shields for health-care facilities.

Each year, the STEM Program provides hands-on learning opportunities to students grades K-12 through a variety of STEM education programming and events. One of the programs is a field trip where schools bring classes to the STEM laboratory at WestGate Academy. The STEM lab includes a wide variety of materials and state-of-the art equipment: multiple 3D printers, laser cutting boards, and tools to teach coding and robotics.

With schools conducting coursework remotely at this time, Tina Closser, head of NSWC Crane’s STEM Program, says they are providing ways students can continue to learn problem-solving skills without access to the lab.

“We’re adapting our normal grade one-through-six field trip to a virtual form,” says Closser. “For those schools that had previously signed up for field trips this year, we are continuing to provide them the programming virtually. If we still have availability, we’ll offer programming to more schools.”

Closser says there was a need to continue to provide the unique, hands-on programming. They adapted their activities to allow students to participate outside the classroom and lab environments and to think outside the box with everyday objects.

“We had a teacher contact us and ask if it was a possibility and we were game,” says Closser. “So, we had to rethink our activities so the kids could do them with materials they would likely have at home. It’s all material they have, but we’re trying to get them to look at it a little differently. We’re just giving them prompts to do things in a friendly environment.”

Closser says this is their way of supporting teachers and the community.

“The activities themselves aren’t overly complicated,” says Closser. “We purposely kept it simple so kids could easily create with materials they had at home. Our goal was to give students hands on science lessons they could do in the home. I believe it’s important to help teachers who may be stressed trying to make impactful lessons virtually and it may help the kids to learn from different people on the screen.”

Closser says the 3-D printed face shields are personal protective gear (PPE) for medical professionals that need them. They have sent several face shields to Sullivan County Hospital 24 to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Indianapolis.

“They are PPE meant to protect the face from any contagions that medical professionals come into close contact with when dealing with patients,” says Closser. “We didn’t design it; we used an approved National Institute of Health design and printed the visor part on our 3D printer. The clear shield part is made from .020 inch binder protectors. We’re waiting for more requests.”

Closser says they learned about the need for the face shields a few weeks ago and used a CRADA with a regional industry partner in place to serve the healthcare community.

“It’s important to be a good community partner and put our expertise and facilities to work for them,” says Closser. “Especially since our STEM lab wasn’t currently being used by students, we were able to make the best use of the space and equipment to serve the needs of the community.”

Learn more about some of the free, online STEM Program challenges on their Facebook page, Hoosier Robotics (https://www.facebook.com/Hoosier-Robotics-449296131761051) where they have been actively engaging regional students in STEM challenges twice a week.

To request face shields for your healthcare organization, please contact hoosierrobotics@gmail.com

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at crane_recruiting@navy.mil.