“As part of this outreach, some teachers bring their
students here to Carderock for testing before the students enter their robots in various competitions,” said
Toby Ratcliffe, an engineer at Carderock and manager
of the center’s STEM program.
“The kids get a tour and meet with our researchers
and engineers, as well as spend time working with their
robots. Building the SeaPerch is awesome, powerful and
empowering, but it’s just the beginning,” Ratcliffe said.
“The kids see it as a final product, but they soon realize
it can do other things. The cool thing is they learn trou-
bleshooting. But more than that, it’s the connection
between students and engineers as role models.”
Carderock brings in science teachers from around
the country during the summer.
“We immerse them in what we do, in the hopes that
the teachers will take some of this back to their classroom,” Ratcliffe said.
According to Bob Wilson, an engineer who has volunteered with his local school’s Engineering Club for
more than a decade, Anne Arundel County students in
Maryland can attend a two-week camp where they
spend part of the first week building their SeaPerch,
and the second week at the Smithsonian Environmental
Research Center on the Chesapeake Bay, where their
remotely operated vehicles are used to gather real data
for actual ongoing research projects.
During the summer months, kindergarten through
12th grade STEM teachers from nearly 20 counties in
southern Indiana get hands-on with technologies —
such as thermal imaging, night vision, prototyping,
aerodynamics, sonar and ballistics — developed and
enhanced at NSWC Crane, Ind. A special curriculum
has been developed to integrate these technologies into
the Indiana Academic Standards.
From grade school to grad school, from 4H clubs in
Minnesota, to Boys and Girls Clubs in Annapolis, Md.,
to Boy Scouts across the country working on their
Robotics merit badge, SeaPerch is making a difference.
According to Traci L. Shoemaker, a reading specialist
at Martinsburg Elementary School in Martinsburg, Pa.,
students have different abilities and interests, so it’s a
challenge to reach every student. Using power tools and
soldering irons was an allure for both boys and girls.
Moreover, Shoemaker said, the students loved hav-
ing the attention of “cool” older Naval Academy engi-
neering students as mentors
“The Navy people who brought the SeaPerch kits
were viewed as superheroes,” Shoemaker said.
Various SeaPerch competitions are held around the
country where students are judged on design, construction and operation. The 2011 National SeaPerch
Challenge will be held at Drexel University in
Philadelphia May 23-25.
Lt. Krista Moses, left, assigned to the Office of Naval
Research Science and Technology Reserve Component,
and Isabel Cardenas-Navia, from the Navy’s STEM2Stern
program, assist children with their hand-built boats during
the first U.S. Science and Engineering Festival on the
National Mall in Washington Oct. 23. The exhibit allowed
visitors to build their own sailboats from aluminum foil,
wooden sticks and paper sails.
The Navy also is investing in extracurricular science and
engineering programs all over the country, such as Los
Angeles-based nonprofit Iridescent to help underserved
elementary and middle school students in Los Angeles
and the New York City boroughs of Harlem, Bronx and
Queens through community science studios.
“It is not just the Navy and Marine Corps that will
need talented and creative engineers and scientists in
the coming years,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in
prepared remarks. “It is America that needs more scientists, more engineers and more people to invent new
machines, to make new discoveries, and to explore
beyond the reaches of imagination and think of things
that haven’t been thought of before.
“They’ve created a place where you can say ‘what
if’…” said Mabus, speaking to young people at the
Nov. 10 opening of the Iridescent Studio for Science
and Engineering Exploration in New York. “They’ve
created a studio, a place where you can imagine, engi-
neer and invent. This studio is a safe place with people
who want to share their knowledge with you and lead
you through the process of discovery.”
Iridescent brings children together with engineers
who devote hundreds of hours teaching complex —
yet exciting — physics concepts to children.
From grade school to grad school, the Navy’s involvement with the various different STEM programs is gaining momentum.
“We are doing it because ensuring that education is a
priority for the United States is a job for all of us,” said
Mabus. “It’s the right thing to do for our future.” ■