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CHIPS Articles: SSC Pacific Key Player in Global STEM Outreach

SSC Pacific Key Player in Global STEM Outreach
By Ashley Nekoui, SSC Pacific Public Affairs Specialist - January 12, 2015
One of the largest movements toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education took place Dec. 8-14, 2014, with students from around the world encouraged to take an hour of their time to learn about computer science and computer programing.

Code.org, a non-profit organization, is implementing a grassroots campaign to introduce and demystify the field of computer science to children throughout the world. This initiative aligns with U.S. efforts to increase awareness and interest in STEM-related fields.

“STEM fields are vital to the nation’s economy and security,” said Capt. Kurt Rothenhaus, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific’s (SSC Pacific) commanding officer, who leads a Department of Navy laboratory focused on command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“The ‘Hour of Code’ is expected to be the largest learning event in history,” says Lt. Cmdr. Sean McConnon, officer-in-charge of Space and Naval Warfare Command’s Guam Facility. “The Hour of Code is a global movement that is expected to reach 100 million students in more than 180 countries this year, already having touched 45 million students since its inception.”

“Lt. Cmdr. McConnon’s endeavors in Guam speak to SSC Pacific’s STEM outreach as a command,” says Rothenhaus. “We have a vital program here that focuses on inspiring and encouraging today’s generation to pursue STEM careers and become the Department of Defense’s next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. In total, SSC Pacific has provided more than 38,000 hours of community service, of which more than 80 percent was voluntary.”

McConnon, an engineering duty officer, is at the forefront of SSC Pacific’s outreach efforts in Guam; his own background may lend to his success. McConnon graduated from the Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He is working with four schools on the island in various STEM-related areas, including computer science and robotics.

“It’s vitally important that our country’s students embrace STEM fields,” said McConnon. “If you read through some of the statistics, it’s alarming. As a Sailor and as a citizen of this country, I feel like I’m obligated to encourage our students, and I really want to share some of my passion and hope that it may inspire someone else.”

McConnon first learned of Code.org after information was posted on the “Waiting for Superman” [an educational documentary] Facebook page. After clicking on a hyperlink provided on Facebook, he reviewed the content and was hooked.

“The U.S. is lagging in teaching computer science in its schools,” McConnon said. “This is disappointing, as one of the biggest national security threats comes in the form of cyber-attacks. Additionally, computers are used in nearly every part of society and an understanding of computer science will be an incredible advantage as children get older. The event that is taking place this week [Dec. 8-14, 2014] provides a simple and convenient platform to engage with students. I really encourage STEM professionals to volunteer their time to get involved and help inspire the next generation.”

More information can be found at http://hourofcode.org.

For more information about Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, please visit: http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Pacific/Pages/default.aspx.

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