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Carderock reaches out to local students through annual math contest

By By Dustin Q. Diaz, NSWC, Carderock Division Public Affairs | March 22, 2016


Nearly 200 students from 25 local middle schools competed at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD), in the seventh annual Carderock Math Contest (CMC) March 18.

The contest, featuring MathCOUNTS style tests and tours of Carderock, is part of NSWCCD’s ongoing outreach efforts to encourage today’s students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“This is a wonderful opportunity for these students to have a fun day of preparatory contests, while also learning about Carderock and the possibilities for jobs in science, math and engineering,” said Dr. Nick Jones, a material engineer and CMC planning committee member. “They also get to learn about possible extracurricular activities, internships, and scholarships for college. The contest serves so many purposes, and is fun for us, too.”

The Carderock Math Contest, part of the National Defense Education Program, challenged the students both as individuals and teams. It began with the Sprint and Target Rounds, sets of math problems each student answered alone, then a Team Round that brought their efforts together under team names like Savage Honey Badger and the moniker that won Most Creative Team Name, E = MC Hammer.

“This is my first time here,” said Oscar Lloyd, a sixth-grade student at St. Anselm’s Abbey School. “I enjoy math, so I joined the club at my school. And I know people who have been here and done the contest before who said it was a lot of fun. I must admit I didn’t do too well, but I still really enjoyed it.”

These initial rounds of the Contest were followed by tours of Carderock’s facilities, including the welding laboratory, the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education Lab and the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin.

“I really enjoyed going around the naval base and seeing all that,” Lloyd added. “I liked going to see the big wave basins and the cranes. Just the scale of all that, it was really cool to see.”

Dr. David Hess, a mechanical engineer and CMC tour guide, told students about Carderock’s ship design work, how it saves the Navy money and how these models and the ships they mimic displace water and are buoyant. He also answered their questions about what kinds of STEM knowledge and degrees to pursue if they want to join Carderock when they are older.

“A lot of them are wowed when they see our facilities and ask a lot of good questions,” Hess said. “These are more than your average students; they’re STEM oriented anyway. I just hope that I can make them like STEM stuff enough that they want to keep doing it, so they can see an end result and realize this is a cool place they can work if they want to. And it would be nice if they did, but I’d be happy if they did STEM stuff anywhere.”

The Countdown Round came after lunch and the tours, pitting the 16 highest scoring students in the previous competitions against one another in a tournament to answer problems before their opponents.

“These are some really smart kids,” said Erica Scates, an aerospace engineer and CMC planning committee member who proctored the Countdown Round. “Often, they’re buzzing in to answer a question while the question is still being read. The competition gets pretty intense.” Scates said this year’s event took more coordination from Carderock’s volunteer team than usual since it was postponed from its usual January date by that month’s historic blizzard, but that the end result went very smoothly.

Adam Roush, a sixth-grade mathematics teacher at St. Anselm’s Abbey School, said he was familiar with Carderock because his father was once a NSWCCD employee and that he was excited to bring his students here for the contest.

“I love the facility,” Roush said. “It’s a good way for students to see mathematics and science in action. They got into the team competition as well; they were very excited for that and it really brought them together.”

Ben Kang, a student at Longfellow Middle School, won the overall competition and will be given an opportunity to shadow a Carderock employee for a day later this year.