Connecting the Circuit: Navy STEM meets the STEM Scouts

by STEM Scouts

Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy, Rear Admiral Terry Moulton, at the STEM Scouts kickoff to Knoxville’s Navy Week.

Originally posted by Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

As the young boy connected the electrical circuits to form a new device of resistors and switches, he let out an incredible and unprovoked declaration.

“I wish I could do this every day,” he said to his friend, who was standing next to him, equally engaged in forging his own new circuit.

Both boys were glued to their projects just as their fellow STEM Scouts were operating wireless robots provided by the Navy as part of the Knoxville Navy Week.

That spark of interest in his words was precisely the desired goal of the latest efforts in education to promote STEM-related studies. The U.S. simply needs more people across the age spectrum to have that same desire to pursue specialties in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

However, the Department of Education has found that only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career.

That is one of the reasons why the Navy teamed up with the scouts to hold a STEM Night to help the students understand how a passion for robotics and technology can translate into exciting career opportunities later in life.

This particular event on April 11 allowed more than 100 STEM Scouts to bridge the gap between demonstration robots and operational platforms that change the world around them.

In one corner, they were able to explore the Navy’s STEM tour with members of Navy Recruiting Station Knoxville. The setup features two wirelessly controlled robots and a virtual reality experience with an underwater vessel utilizing the Oculus Rift headset.

Just a few feet away stood members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6. Most people would simply call them the bomb squad. Their job is to find dangerous devices around the world, on land and at sea, and safely disarm them. One of the tools they use is a tracked vehicle, which can remotely capture and move delicate objects across varied terrain. It is called the Boeing 310 SUGV and the STEM Scouts were able to operate it with their own hands. Eyes widened and kids jumped as the device quickly skirted across the concrete. Few of them were aware that this device was worth more than a small house.

And it wasn’t just the boys controlling the robots. The STEM Scouts is a coed program that welcomes students from grades 3-12.

The organization is the newest offshoot of the Boy Scouts of America and the program offers a scouting experience with less emphasis on the outdoors and more focus on lessons and experiments that are experienced through weekly labs. The first pilot program of the STEM Scouts was started in the Knoxville area in April 2014. The enrollment in the program has doubled in the last year and it recently expanded to 12 more cities across the country.

“One mother told me that she used to have to drag her son to school but now he looks forward to it because of STEM Scouts,” said Sarah Barnett, a STEM Scout District Executive.

Barnett added that the Navy’s participation in this lab event offered a chance for the students to think of STEM in a way that was new and enlightening.

“They get to see how the Navy has integrated STEM and maybe what careers in the Navy are STEM orientated that they never thought of. They can broaden their horizons for what is out there for careers in the future,” she said.

One of those scouts was a young boy named Evan. He had tried out traditional scouting at an early age and found out that it didn’t fit his liking. But he happened to attend the school where they had the first pilot program of the STEM Scouts. He has been hooked ever since. Now two years after he first started, he gives a very clear assessment of his passion for STEM.

“I love science, technology and engineering,” Evan said confidently.

Most would call it a success for a 10-year-old to only leave out mathematics. Yet he was so wasn’t so consumed with the whirling robots that he missed the Sailors standing in front of him.

“The best thing about tonight is getting to meet people, like these guys, who have done so much for our country.”

Navy Recruiting Station Knoxville is one of more than 30 stations belonging to Navy Recruiting District Nashville. More than 100,000 square miles are assigned to NRD Nashville including counties in Tennessee, Arkansas, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, northern Mississippi, southern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia.

For more information on NRD Nashville, visit www.cnrc.navy.mil/nashville/.

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