STEM Education in Charles County: Elementary School to Workforce

Posted by: Economic Development Team on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Science can seem a little academic to young children, but real life exposure to the world of technology and robotics at an early age can show how fun and interesting the field really is. Our Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students benefit from the school system’s long-time partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD)*, where volunteers from the Naval Command share their expertise and knowledge with students at our schools and community events.

“Our senior leadership sets annual priorities to fund and support STEM activities, as they understand the importance of leveraging our technical expertise for students interested in a career in science,” said Juan Roman Sanchez, the Command’s STEM Coordinator. NSWC IHEODTD provides judges for the school system’s Science Fair and mentors and funds robotics programs and research opportunities for high school students. In return, CCPS makes laboratory equipment and facilities available to the Command, as well as providing opportunities for NSWC IHEODTD to assist in the CCPS educational curriculum.

Though CCPS and the Command have had a decades-long partnership, they only recently signed an official agreement in September 2019, which will be instrumental in training the next generation of scientists and engineers. According to the Command’s **STEM Coordinator Dr. Martin Chernoff, “The intent is to be more strategic in how we engage and educate the students of Charles County. We want to be an active force in their education, but we want to do it as effectively as possible. By allowing them access to Command technology and mentors, we can prepare them for careers in STEM and ensure the continued effectiveness of the U.S. Navy.”

Programs in Charles County Public Schools

The following programs are available to Charles County students.

  • SEAPERCH (3rd to 8th grade): SeaPerch is a hands-on activity designed to get kids excited about science. Students build an underwater robot comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. With one project, schools are able to teach many of the concepts required for engineering: design, fabrication, testing, and time management.
  • VEX Robotics (Middle School and High School): VEX Robotics focuses on bringing students into the world of robotics and engineering and is supported by one mentor from NSWC IHEODTD per school. The mentor meets with the students weekly to provide guidance and share knowledge. The students’ work touches the roots and foundation of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, and programming, systems engineering, and management.
  • First Robotic Competition (FRC) (High School): The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) organization pairs students and adult mentors in a variety of challenges to introduce students to science and engineering. FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC) specifically target high-school-aged students in a challenge announced in early January. Teams then have only six weeks to design, build, and test their robot before heading to competition.
  • Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) (High School): This program provides an opportunity for high school students to participate in research at a Department of Navy (DoN) laboratory during the summer. NSWC IHEODTD is one of the few labs that provides an individual Capstone Project while attending various two-week workshops throughout the eight-week program. The capstone projects are tailored to the student, and then an employee volunteers to mentor the student through their project, teaching them to properly apply theory material specific to their background and systems engineering.

In addition to SEAP, the Command also supports the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP), an internship opportunity for college students. As opposed to SEAP, NREIP students are stationed at the lab for 10-12 weeks, where they work under an employee as a mentee to solve current engineering problems within the Command.

In short, the partnership between our local Command and public schools will help make sure the next generation of scientists and engineers are ready for the workforce. Juan Roman Sanchez said, “Students who pursue engineering careers after being exposed to these experiences can impact the future by bringing forward new creative thinking and ideas to improve our technology and capabilities.”

 *About NSWC IHEODTD: a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Enterprise, it is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Command focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit, and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.

**The STEM Coordinator is a rotational position, and any STEM-related questions should be directed to 
Josh Phillips, Senior Communications Specialist, NSWC Indian Head EOD Technology Division, 301-744-1119 or
josh.m.phillips@navy.mil. To get your child involved in the school programs, call your child’s school.

PHOTO: NSWC IHEODTD signs an Educational Partnership Agreement with Charles County Public Schools, 

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