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NEWS | Jan. 10, 2023

NSWCDD Delivers Robot Technology to High Schools in Preparation for Upcoming Innovation Challenge @ Dahlgren

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Students, start your robots! Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) Commanding Officer Capt. Philip Mlynarski and Technical Director Dale Sisson stopped by several schools in the surrounding area to drop off robots and other items for the upcoming Innovation Challenge @ Dahlgren. The Innovation Challenge @ Dahlgren is one of many outreach programs coordinated and run by the Academic Outreach Team from the Technology Office at NSWCDD headed by Chief Technology Officer Jennifer Clift.

Mlynarski visited Fredericksburg Christian School (FCS) and James Monroe High School Dec. 15. During both stops, he quoted Matt Damon’s character from “The Martian” while advising students how to approach adversity during the competition. In the movie, Damon portrays botanist Mark Watney, an astronaut, who is stranded on Mars.

Damon’s character said this about his struggle to survive: “Everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now, you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

Mlynarski encouraged students at both schools to approach obstacles during preparation and competition the same way. “Don’t try to solve every problem all at the same time. Take the emotion out of it,” he said. “Solve one problem before moving on to the next. Keep going until you’ve found success.”

FCS is the defending champion in the competition. Last April, a team of four young men led the way to victory for the Eagles. The team’s participation and success in last year’s challenge inspired the student body so much, that for the 2023 competition, FCS has already had interest from over 20 students to participate on this year’s team. Not only that, but female students account for half of the interested new team members. 

Mlynarski and Sisson stopped by King George High School Dec. 16 to meet with students and faculty who are participating in this year’s competition. Sisson spoke to students and staff about the impact of STEM-related programs.

“These kinds of programs are critical to developing the expertise that we need to keep our nation at the forefront of technology,” Sisson said. “Getting into the high schools and having students get interested in math, science, technology and engineering, that is what we are looking to do. It’s not just pure science and engineering anymore. We are looking for the best of the best who want to help us win.”

Sisson, a King George native, has a long history and relationship with the local school. “It is so great that I can come back to the school in this capacity,” he said.