NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific volunteers helped judge student projects for the 66th Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair (GSDSEF) at Balboa Park Mar. 11.
GSDSEF, hosted locally by a nonprofit organization of the same name, is designed to encourage middle and high school students interested in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
“Because we have so many scientists and engineers across so many disciplines, we’re able to make an impact and contribute our expertise as feedback to the students here at the fair,” said Yolanda Tanner, NAVWAR STEM federal action officer and NIWC Pacific internship and fellowship program manager.
Thirty judges helped judge 532 student projects, and one volunteer mentored a group project prior to the fair, measuring the largest number of GSDSEF volunteers from NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific to date, and the largest representation of any organization this year.
Feedback from NAVWAR employees such as program manager Jennifer L. Zornow is used to score projects on a rubric. Judges’ scores are used to determine which projects receive awards and which might move on to compete in the California State Science Fair, or even the International Science and Engineering Fair.
“I’m looking for projects that have a hypothesis and scientific measurements to determine whether or not the hypothesis was founded,” said Zornow. “I like seeing exhibits from students who do a really good job of coming up with parameters and metrics to support their research.”
One Bright Horizon Academy student evaluated the effectiveness of American Sign Language education in communicating non-verbally with peers.
“When I’m a doctor, I want to be able to communicate with a nonverbal person, to check in on them and see how they’re doing,” said the ninth-grader.
One judge, NIWC Pacific electrical engineer Tommy K. Khoury, reflected on his own childhood during the fair, noting that he didn’t have a similar opportunity growing up.
“Seeing how passionate these kids are reminds me of myself when I was younger,” said Khoury. “It’s cool to see kids get outside their comfort zones and use this outlet to challenge themselves.”
In addition to their involvement in GSDSEF, NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific employees also support other STEM events such as FIRST Robotics Competition, RoboSub and Fleet Week.
“Our future workforce for the Department of Defense is dependent upon the great minds and creators of today,” said Tanner when asked about how volunteering for STEM events supports the NAVWAR mission. “By helping to cultivate the great minds of today, we’re also providing a workforce for the future.”
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