NSWC Dahlgren Division STEM team challenges and inspires kids in Spotsy

by | Aug 13, 2023 | Schools & Education

From NSWC Dahlgren Division:

A dozen Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) employees served as instructors at the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office STEM camp July 31-Aug. 3 at the Germanna Community College Fredericksburg Area Campus.  The NSWCDD volunteers included scientists, engineers and interns with a heart for community service and a desire to pass their expertise on to the next generation.

“We have a ton of experts here at NSWCDD and those experts love giving back to the local community and just letting the kids have a good time learning about STEM,” NSWCDD STEM Outreach Director Michael Clark said. “We also hope that by participating in this camp and supporting this camp, we piqued the interest of a number of students who then decide they want to become some of the world’s best scientists and engineers in the future.”
Approximately 400 children ages 6-14 participated in the camp.

The partnership involved NSWCDD, the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office, Germanna and GCubed, a government and commercial IT and cyber solutions business based in Stafford County. “Germanna does a great job of outreach in the STEM community,” Clark said. “We’re really growing our partnership with
them. When we’re working together, we’re even stronger and able to have an even greater impact. They are able to provide a ton of subject matter experts. So we were glad to partner with them, the Sheriff’s Office and GCubed, to make this event a success.”

On the first day of camp, NSWCDD employees worked in two classrooms side-by-side. One classroom focused on constructing a boat that could stay afloat carrying a certain amount of weight in a storage tote full of water for 15 seconds. The other class concentrated on building a sail car that could roll down the hallway. Following 45 minutes of hard work on their projects, the children eagerly watched as their experiments were put to the test.

“It speaks to how important STEM outreach is for Dahlgren, that we consistently support events like this,” said Kelly Morgan, a scientist in the Strategic and Computing Systems Department at NSWCDD. “The kids were attentive and listened well. It was so fun seeing how creative they could get.”

Morgan joined Nicholas Giampetro, a student trainee in the Weapons Control and Integration Department, to instruct campers on building a boat. Stephanie Shand, a scientist in the Integrated Combat Systems Department, and Joey Marsh, an intern in NSWCDD’s Technology Office, were the sail car instructors.

The children were divided into groups of three to four and had to demonstrate teamwork and problem-solving skills. “It was really fun watching the kids go through all the motions,” Marsh said. “They learned a lot.”

Although the campers had varying amounts of success with their projects, Morgan said it was encouraging to see them strive to find solutions. She noted that some of the boats were able to float for 15 seconds and some were not. “I could see the gears turning in their heads, trying to figure out factors like buoyancy, balance and how that might affect the boats,” Morgan said. “It was very inspiring. At the end of one session, a student said to me, ‘I love science. I can’t wait to be a scientist when I grow up!’ Seeing that sort of spark at a young age is amazing and I’m so glad Dahlgren makes a difference and opens pathways for these kids.”

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