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CHIPS Articles: NIWC Atlantic Fosters Learning Through STEM Camps

NIWC Atlantic Fosters Learning Through STEM Camps
By Alex Jackson and Jerry Sekerak, Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic - August 8, 2019
Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic hosted multiple science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) camps across Hampton Roads, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, between July 22 and 26.

In Hampton Roads, local students participated in two events, including the annual Girls Day Out camp and STEM Academy.

“It’s a lot of work, but we love doing this and are proud to have been able to offer our two STEM summer camps to nearly 100 Hampton Roads kids at no cost to them,” said Jerry Sekerak, Hampton Roads STEM Outreach Lead.

STEM Academy is a four-day camp for rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade boys and girls, held at Norfolk State University. Students were divided into two groups that each built, programmed and tested VEX robots; built/launched plastic water bottle rockets; and learned about block and other forms of coding using quadcopter drones and Ozobot coding robots.

The students were also treated to dynamic presentations by several guest speakers throughout the week from partner organization Navy Environmental Protection Unit Two based on Naval Station Norfolk.

Hampton Road’s annual Girls Day Out, also held at Norfolk State University, is a one-day camp for rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade girls.

More than 50 girls heard from guest speaker Lisa Surles-Law, a science education administrator at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, and Azaria Cherry, a 14-year-old rising sophomore in the Health and Specialties Program at Maury High School.

Cherry shared the importance of exploring STEM, pursuing a higher education and promoting community stewardship.

“How many of you think girls can do anything?” said Cherry. “Well, we can, and you need to believe you can. The opportunity is out there and we must feel empowered to show the world what we can do.”

Sekerak noted that raising well-rounded children takes a village of volunteers. “Kudos go out our two NIWC Atlantic camp coordinators: Kevin Thorpe (STEM Academy) and Danielle Conyers (STEM Girls Day Out),” he said. “Through their efforts, and those of more than 50 combined camp volunteers, we were able to plant the seeds of STEM in the hearts and minds of our youth to help inspire them to pursue an education and/or career in science, technology, engineering and math, or other related area.”

In Charleston, NIWC Atlantic sponsored the 8th annual Girls Day Out in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research, Naval Health Clinic Charleston and other community partners between July 25 and 27.

More than 100 girls attended the camp designed to educate and attract rising 8th and 9th grade girls to pursue STEM careers while having fun. STEM professionals from local businesses and organizations shared interactive activities and demonstrations during the three-day event.

“Seeing other women in these careers helps us know that we have a shot and can achieve our goals,” said Jordan, a rising 9th grader from a local high school.

Presentations at Girls Day Out focused on soft skills, such as networking and public speaking, and provided the opportunity to interact with other women currently working in STEM-related fields.

“These students are the next generation that will shape our future,” said Capt. Wesley Sanders, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer. “Our nation and our nation’s ability to maintain a competitive world presence in science and technology depends on people like you who will work in these career fields.”

As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

A class mentor helps a student with the assembly of a water pressure rocket during Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic Hampton Roads' 9th annual STEM Academy at Norfolk State University. Photo by Jerry Sekerak
DimensionU Instructor Jennifer Bishop provides guidance to students at the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic STEM Academy held at Norfolk State University July 22-25, 2019. DimensionU creates engaging and interactive multiplayer video games that focus on core mathematics and literacy skills for students in grades 3 through 9. Photo by Jerry Sekerak
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