The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education program has been a part of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) since 2009, but has since grown to include major K-12 programs, receive statewide recognition, establish a regional makerspace and has evolved into a recruiting tool for next generation NSWC Crane employees.
Kyle Werner, who serves as NSWC Crane’s Applied Science Department Director, provided details on this growth noting the program metrics as well as the program’s advances.
“We’ve experienced incredible growth in our STEM outreach program. In the beginning, we were very intentional to reach out and engage individual community partners and over time, through the success of our efforts, we have evolved to where we have a growing demand of community partners who are actively engaging Crane because they want to be a part of this growing program,” Werner said.
The K-12 program currently has an outreach to a regional area which includes the following Indiana counties: Lawrence, Monroe, Greene, Martin, Dubois, Pike and Daviess. Additionally, the program also supports schools in the Evansville and Indianapolis areas as well as a Chicago-based academy.
“In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, our NSWC Crane STEM program supported more than 5,000 students, 100 teachers and 30 schools with STEM initiatives during school and after-school programming. We had more than 90 employees using 800 hours of Crane sponsored school partnership program time to outreach to their communities and activity levels for FY16 are on pace to far exceed these numbers,” Werner explained.
Tina Closser, NSWC Crane engineer and STEM lead, also provided details on the program. “Before STEM existed there was a tutor program at the schools; it was an initial school-partnership program for general community outreach. Then there was a push from the Navy to make the program more strategic so it could be used as a very early recruiting tool. The program was evolved from let’s get these kids better at math and science to growing a pipeline for future employees,” Closser said.
Currently, STEM’s K-12 programming consists of activities that are broken into age groups. Grades K-6 programming in part includes field trips, curriculum mapped to state standards and outreach programs that support schools as well as organizations such as the Boys Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America. Grades 7-12 programming in part includes after-school programming at WestGate, an annual science fair and several other activities.
“Our goal is to continue to grow the pipeline – K-12. We try to have programs that everyone can access,” Closser added. Examples of the K-12 STEM programs include For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) – which includes a group of approximately 22 people who coach robot leagues. Another such partnership program is SeaPerch – which focuses on underwater robotics. SeaPerch competitions are allocated and in most cases Indiana teams fare quite well, Closser also noted.
Additionally, NSWC Crane was recognized as one of Indiana’s technology success stories during the 2015 Mira Awards gala.
The goal of NSWC Crane’s K-12 STEM Outreach Program is to motivate, cultivate and attract the next generation of STEM talent. The program accomplishes this by providing students and teachers with NSWC Crane scientist and engineer mentors for a variety of programs. Since the inception of its STEM program, NSWC Crane and its personnel have served thousands of students and hundreds of teachers and schools.