By Professor Angela Moran
US. Naval Academy STEM Program Director
Helping the Naval Academy address an urgent national need for more young people to pursue courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a personally rewarding experience for me. Since 2009, the Naval Academy has pursued an aggressive outreach effort to encourage young men and women from across our nation to value a STEM curriculum, and at the same time, consider the unique challenges and opportunities available to them in the naval service.
The USNA program’s strength comes from the Naval Academy faculty, who derive the outreach curriculum from their current classroom and critical research areas, and the midshipmen, who are trained as near-peer facilitators in the outreach process. By aligning with the Naval Academy mission and the urgent national need, the USNA STEM Program has been able to leverage activities with federal and corporate sponsors and demonstrate to a broad audience the importance of technology to our national defense.
As the USNA Odgers professor for STEM and a full professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department, I work with dedicated Naval Academy faculty and midshipmen who volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of students in grades K-16. These students are not only engaged but they become empowered with a deeper understanding of and commitment to STEM fields. In order for the United States to remain a global leader, our STEM education programs must continue to attract young students to these important careers.
The Naval Academy is primarily an engineering school. 18 of the 24 majors we offer are in STEM disciplines, and even those midshipmen majoring in a non-STEM field receive enough technology-based education through our core curriculum to be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree.
Our STEM goals focus on the midshipmen. We want them to value their own education by sharing what they learn in their technical courses with younger students and we want them to develop a high level of ownership of the activities. In doing so, we prepare midshipmen for intellectual challenges by creating opportunities for them to learn current STEM theory and application, lead in the classroom, strengthen their creative problem solving skills, enhance their innovative thinking, and hone their ability to respond to spontaneous situations as well as deal with technical problems using multi-disciplinary tactics.
Our STEM program uses a unique approach to recruiting and retaining STEM majors by actively engaging elementary, middle and high school students and teachers in a wide variety of science and engineering events (camps, minicamps, competitions, site visits, short courses and internships) to initiate interest and enthusiasm for future STEM participation in academic and career choices. We have developed Navy relevant curriculum in a wide array of exciting topics and we emphasize near-peer interactions of the midshipmen with the audience and focus on underrepresented across the country and abroad.
Examples of our STEM program activities include participation in national Expositions and Science/Engineering Festivals like the Tiger Wood Foundation Workshops and the USA Science and Engineering Festivals. K-16 Educator training is offered throughout the year and during the summer in project based learning. We provide classroom support, teacher training and host regional competitions in a number of robotics programs. Midshipmen and faculty travel to disadvantaged sites to provide portable and modular STEM-in-a-Box curriculum to hundreds of teachers and students, as well as motivational discussion about the value of a STEM education.
We offer activities all year long but we are best known for our summer STEM programs. USNA faculty developed an intensive, project-based learning curriculum for students in grades 8 through 11. Each session is one-week in duration with 200 to 250 students per session. Campers from diverse backgrounds and from each state in the country as well as abroad, participate in a wide range of activities, including topics such as learning facial recognition, studying cryptography and cyber security, exploring alternative energy, running 3-D simulations, testing the effects of extreme weather, and modeling flight and rocketry.
STEM programs enhance both individual achievement and national security, and the Naval Academy is committed to doing its part in raising the bar of academic achievement. As you can see, our STEM program is an ambitious effort of which we’re very proud. The program is far-reaching and growing, and has positive ramifications both for the future of our country and the lives of young people. We’re eager to share our ideas and best-practices, and welcome additional participants.
Additional information on USNA’s STEM program efforts is available at www.usna.edu/STEM.
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