DAHLGREN, Va. –
DAHLGREN, Va. – “Here’s the most important question of the day: Why are you here? What are you hoping to get out of this today?” said Kyle Lackinger – Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Director of Collaborative Innovation and Academic Engagement – to a group of 17 students at the Fredericksburg Regional Governor’s School (FRGS).
Some students answered Lackinger’s query by saying they wanted to learn more about the engineering profession; others said they hoped to learn about career paths they had not considered before. Some simply said they wanted to learn something new.
On June 23, high school sophomore, junior, and senior students in the Exploring Engineering course at FRGS heard presentations from five NSWCDD employees. Each speaker spoke of their academic backgrounds and their personal trajectories that led them to the STEM-focused positions they hold now.
Students listened intently as each engineer explained their journey from initial academic exposure to STEM, to college careers, interests inside and outside of their work and their personal habits that enable them to succeed.
Becky Slominski, Director of the Fredericksburg Regional Summer Governor’s School, said the event was quite successful with the students.
“Students were highly appreciative of what the speakers had to say and that they were able to ask questions and have them answered by people with expertise in engineering and science,” she said. “All of the speakers did a great job explaining what drew them to science or engineering and what their current roles are. Additionally, the speakers gave good explanations of what our students might need to focus on through the rest of their high school years if they are interested in pursuing a STEM field as an undergraduate.”
The “meet-an-engineer” style event was one of the first outreach efforts of the recently developed Community Engagement and Transformation focus area. The new focus area has generated about six events since its genesis in 2020.
NSWC Dahlgren Scientist and Community Engagement and Transformation Lead Sarah Fralich said the aim of events like these is to remove preconceptions and make it clear that a career in STEM is achievable should a student have the interest.
“It’s always a lot of fun to engage with the students and get them excited about STEM, but it can be kind of scary to actually get into STEM to pursue those different fields,” said Fralich. “So, it helps to show the students that we’re regular people too and that we have a lot of the same interests as they have.”
Dr. Spencer Beloin, one of the five speakers at the event, shared some of his favorite channels on a popular online video platform while Lackinger shared what sorts of books he enjoys to read in his spare time. By creating familiar connections with the students, the hope is that students are able to envision themselves in the role of scientists or engineers more readily.
NSWCDD has hosted events like this one before and, with the aid of the new Community Engagement and Transformation Lead, plans to do more by expanding into events with local school systems, college and university partners. Fralich says that the new portion of the NSWCDD STEM Outreach Portfolio plans to host an event each month by utilizing the network of over 300 NSWCDD employees that have offered to volunteer their time for STEM outreach.