Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) recently released the Command’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach charter and strategic plan, which share an increased focus on the future workforce, for 2021-2025.
The new STEM Outreach Charter lays out six goals to strengthen the STEM education in the Greater Philadelphia Area to strengthen the Command’s future workforce pipeline.
“This revision focused on making sure that all of the programs that we support align with our goals,” said Tristan Wolfe, NSWCPD’s STEM Outreach Program Manager. “Our number one goal is to attract and engage a high achieving, diverse pool of students to the NSWCPD STEM Pipeline. We are doing that by increasing the total number of participants by targeting communities that are underrepresented in the STEM field and enhancing the quality of STEM education in the region.”
NSWCPD connects with students from elementary school to college through afterschool programs, events, and internships. In Fiscal Year 2020, NSWCPD’s STEM Outreach Program engaged 305 NSWCPD employees, 3,600 students, and 336 educators through 28 events and seven major programs across the Greater Philadelphia Area.
One of NSWCPD’s programs aimed at serving underrepresented communities is the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania STEM Experience Summer Camp that the Command hosts alongside Jefferson University. This program brings Girl Scouts into the Command’s test sites and labs, as well as gives them the opportunity to engage with STEM professionals who share encouragement and their own stories of finding success in STEM.
“Programs like this are important to show the girls that there are more opportunities open to them to work in the science field than just being a doctor,” said Elyse Merkel, a Fuel Systems Engineer and NSWCPD’s lead volunteer for the camp. “I didn’t have any programs like this growing up and I didn’t really get introduced to engineering until college. I think it makes all the difference to connect with middle schoolers with our diverse group of women in STEM and let them see themselves represented in the career field.”
The Command’s second goal is to inspire and improve STEM proficiency in the Greater Philadelphia Area by focusing on equity and increasing technical literacy and to raise awareness of opportunities in the Navy from internships to careers.
These events all help NSWCPD to engage directly with the community, highlighting the importance of the Navy and showcase the variety of STEM careers across the Department of Defense.
“Every year we see more and more how important a STEM education is, both for our Nation and our Navy. We need a well-educated workforce to lead our nation to a successful future,” said Capt. Dana Simon, NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer. “Our STEM program and internships have found some of our most talented employees and they are able to hit the ground running thanks to the skills they bring with them from their time in our programs.”
The Command’s third goal is to grow NSWCPD’s identity and STEM culture through STEM outreach participation.
“NSWCPD Leadership has been incredibly supportive of employees volunteering and that has played a big part in our ability support these programs. We provide funding and resources to our employees to make sure that they feel empowered to engage with the community,” Wolfe said.
Although the Coronavirus Pandemic limited some of the events NSWCPD supports, the Command still connected with students through virtual events, online afterschool programs, and multiple entirely remote internship programs.
In 2020, NSWCPD was responsible for 20 percent of the entire Department of the Navy’s internship programs after several labs were forced to cancel their college focused Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program and high school focused Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program internship programs. NSWCPD shifted the projects to allow all 61 interns to participate virtually. At the end of the internships 17 students interviewed for positions and 15 were offered letters of interest from the Command.
NSWCPD also partners with the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC), a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Center-wide program that awards grants to universities to conduct research while offering students first-hand naval engineering experience. NEEC provides a pipeline of students with relevant experience that can immediately make an impact when brought on board.
The fourth goal is to develop and enhance the NSWCPD workforce through STEM outreach participation.
Volunteering provides NSWCPD employees with an opportunity to collaborate across technical codes and to meet coworkers who they might not have otherwise. NSWCPD’s robotics program mentors work in a variety of different technical codes and bring different areas of expertise that they can share with each other and the students.
Sean Gallagher, NSWCPD systems engineer and Vice Chair for the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition, explained.
“Being a mentor teaches project management, systems engineering, and public speaking,” Gallagher said. “Particularly for young people coming into the organization, this is an invaluable way to practice skills that they can bring back to NSWCPD.”
The fifth goal focuses on building outreach relationships with academia, private industry, and other government organizations to further community support.
The Command is partnered with several universities for RoboBoat and RoboSub, naval robotics competitions that focus on providing participants experience in all facets of the engineering design process for the development of autonomous naval vehicles.
In 2019, NSWCPD partnered with the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition, a nonprofit that supports Philadelphia public high school robotics teams, which helped NSWCPD engineers connect with more than 20 local schools.
“Our partners help increase our reach to schools we haven’t been able to engage with yet and allow us the flexibility to leverage resources we wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Wolfe explained.
The STEM Outreach Program’s final goal is to track performance, market success, and continuously improve the NSWCPD STEM Program.
“We want to really hone-in on exactly what resources we need on a yearly-basis to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the community and providing support to our employees where needed,” Wolfe said. “Our STEM Outreach program has grown every year and COVID showed us that we can reach more students across the nation virtually and we plan on taking that lesson going forward.”
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.