According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs by 2020, but there will be only 400,000 people with the skills to fill those roles.
How will the Naval Research Enterprise ensure there will be a sufficient talent pool capable of completing cyber, information technology, and engineering tasks vital to national security and naval technological superiority?
It starts with outreach. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Pacific and SSC Atlantic are conducting an array of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach programs to encourage an interest in these career fields in students from elementary school and beyond.
Here are a few of the ways the systems centers work to inspire a love of STEM in tomorrow’s scientists and engineers, thereby building the next generation of the workforce.
• Cybersecurity partnerships: SSC Pacific’s Hawaii team has begun raising awareness about cybersecurity careers by interacting with island partner schools through the presentation of a cybersecurity lecture and hands-on activity at the high school level. The team also has been working with middle and elementary school teachers to develop age-appropriate curricula and activities to introduce cybersecurity concepts to younger students. Next year, the team will expand its presence and introduce mentoring to several partner schools in support of the national CyberPatriot competition.
• Cybersecurity/Information Assurance program: SSC Pacific’s Philadelphia Cybersecurity /Information Assurance program is funded by the Department of the Navy and is designed to be its premier cyber outreach effort to the best and brightest undergraduate and graduate computer engineering students attending historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions. Participating students have an opportunity to participate in cyber lectures to establish a technical foundation, work on an academic research project for practical application, and apply for a chance to work as paid interns alongside SSC Pacific experts to receive real-world training in mission-critical, cyber-related projects during a six- to seven-month program.
• Palmetto Cybersecurity Summer Camp: SSC Atlantic’s 2015 annual Cybersecurity Summer Camp was hosted in collaboration with the Charleston County School District and the Lowcountry Technical Academy. SSC Atlantic provides middle and high school students with a week of hands-on training to educate them on new skills and encourage their interest in STEM careers. Campers choose from tracks including cybersecurity, programming, robotics, and computer network defense. SSC Atlantic professionals teach the classes, which have campers deconstructing computers, writing HTML code, and building robots. The camp added a new curriculum for the middle school campers that included snap circuits, scratch programming, and internet security.
• Palmetto Cyberdefense Competition: In its fifth year, SSC Atlantic’s Palmetto Cyberdefense Challenge hosts a day for college students, a day for high school students, and a third day where two college students are imbedded within each team. Students are responsible for operating a small business network and are required to reconfigure a misconfigured network while defending against a red team of volunteers who are attempting to disrupt and penetrate their network.
• Palmetto Digital Forensics Competition: SSC Atlantic sponsored the Digital Forensics Competition, which in 2015 included students in grades 9 through 12 for the first time. Competitors were required to solve several rounds of exercises at various levels of difficulty by examining provided artifacts, answering questions, and describing the solution methodology. The competition had 20 teams from 14 different schools, both public and private, made up of 51 students from various counties in South Carolina and with forensic experts from the SSC Atlantic cyberforensics program.
• Girls Day Out: In 2015 SSC Atlantic, in collaboration with local colleges and businesses, sponsored the largest Girl’s Day Out (GDO) to date in Charleston and Hampton Roads, Virginia. GDO is an informative STEM event for eighth and ninth grade girls, and is designed to inspire the next generation of women to pursue STEM careers.
The program is structured to educate girls and their parents about how to make appropriate curriculum choices in high school that will prepare them for STEM degrees, and provide them with college and university requirements for degree programs. GDO focuses on fun and educational activities to introduce girls to various STEM topics such as cybersecurity and robotics. The girls are taught important life skills such as how to dress appropriately and conduct themselves in interviews.
The event also features a keynote speaker who is a successful woman in a STEM field, a business and college expo, and a panel of female STEM professionals who give the girls an opportunity to ask questions and listen to personal testimonies. GDO has been a labor of love for SSC Atlantic and we are proud to inspire the next generation of young women scientists and engineers.
These programs create a pathway to employment through the various opportunities to meet Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command personnel and learn what the command does, and gives the command the opportunity to have a say in shaping the workforce of the upcoming decades.
Kathleen Gately is the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command’s STEM outreach lead.
Shanda Johnson and Kelly Thompson work in Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic’s K-12 outreach program.
Nick Kamin and Monica Umeda work in Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific’s Hawaii outreach program.
Maurice Civers is Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center’s Philadelphia STEM outreach manager.
Reprinted from the Naval Science & Technology Future Force magazine Spring Edition 2016, managed by the Office of Naval Research, on behalf of the naval research community.