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NEWS | June 13, 2022

NSWC Dahlgren Division STEM Outreach Team Encourages High School Students to become Critical Thinkers

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) sent a superstar team of STEM advocates to the Fredericksburg Regional Summer Governor’s School, June 9, to highlight possibilities in the world of science and technology. Students from Caroline, Fredericksburg, King George, Spotsylvania, and Stafford participated in the program that was held at James Monroe High School. 

Dr. Spencer Beloin kicked off the event with presentations covering topics such as black holes, the physics of magnetic braking and how stars form. He also engaged the class in a game of Bayesian tennis that involved him placing a “tennis ball” somewhere on the “court” and tasking the students to determine its location through a series of grid movements. 

After lunch, biochemist Erica Borgers Klonkowski and mathematician Robert Taft joined Beloin for a panel discussion. The panel discussed topics ranging from their educational paths and current work to what books they enjoy. The trio also emphasized to the students the need to develop critical thinking skills to become good citizens.  

“Not all these students will pursue careers in STEM fields. However, we can also focus on our country's special role as a world leader in science and technology,” Beloin said. “While they may not go on to be scientists or engineers, they will become taxpaying citizens and we want them to understand why keeping the nation at the forefront of STEM-related advancements is a worthwhile investment.” 

While the students peppered the team with questions, there was a focus on the personal lives of the panel, specifically on work-life balance. Fredericksburg Christian School rising junior Gabriella Otalora Reyes said, “it was cool to see them as people just like us. It was interesting to learn that they struggle with balancing work and life as we do and how they push through those struggles.” 

Klonkowski hopes the students continue to ask questions. “Asking questions is how we all learn,” she stated. “Asking questions and seeking answers is how they’ll become critical thinkers.”