SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) teamed with the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) to host a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) event for local students, July 26.
"Today, you're going to see a lot and you're going to get to do a lot," said Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle. "You'll get to see all the technology here that they use every day and meet the engineers who keep it working and integrated with each other. You'll get to see everything the crew of the USS Essex does and how they do business here."
Almost 400 students and chaperones from the Blue Heart Foundation, the California Football Camp, Crawford High School, Point Loma Navy JROTC and the Sea Scouts, and numerous volunteers from NNOA attended the event.
Students and their chaperones were broken up into five groups and were given a shipboard tour by Essex Sailors. In the well deck, students learned how the ship can launch and recover amphibious vehicles.
"It was cool learning how the ship can actually sink in the water," said David Hermitano, a student from Crawford High School.
On the flight deck, students got to learn about the different types of aircraft Essex can carry aboard.
"The flight deck was my favorite part," said Salvador Monroy, a student from Crawford High School. "It was really interesting to see the tools they use when launching and recovering the planes and helicopters."
Students also got to tour the ship's hospital and operating rooms.
"It (the medical center) was way bigger than I thought it would be," said Issa Muse, a member of the Blue Heart Foundation.
The groups were able to tour the bridge to learn how the ship is driven and tour the combat information center.
After the tour, students were able to talk to, ask questions and interact with the Sailors aboard Essex during a working lunch.
NNOA brought students to Essex to show them not only all the career opportunities the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have to offe,r but also to give them firsthand experience of what it's like to be on a Navy warship and how STEM plays a vital role in life on a ship.
"The STEM program is a way for us to showcase what we do," said retired Cmdr. Katrina Pringle, the retired representative for NNOA. "You can always go and talk to the students at the schools, but it's so much better for them if they can see what the Navy does up close. This event gives students the opportunity to talk to folks who wear the uniform; learn from their experiences."
NNOA not only provides professional development, mentoring and recruiting support but also seeks ways to educate students about the importance of STEM to create a larger pool of young, talented applicants in order to enhance sea service operational readiness.
"The sea services are competing for the same pool of talented applicants that other companies around the world are," said Pringle. "We're competing for the best [information technology] people, the best scientists and the best engineers. By holding this type of event, we hope to showcase what we have to offer to these young, talented minds so that when it comes time for them to make a decision about what career they want to choose, hopefully something within the sea services is on their list of considerations."
Students who participated in the STEM event came with questions and left with answers.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Isaq Moalin, a member of the Blue Heart Foundation. "I came here today because I really wanted to see what the Navy had to offer. I learned that the military can be a really great way to get to where you want to go. I definitely feel more informed now and that will really help me decide what I want to do."
"We use science and technology in our ships to do amazing things around the globe and it's our Sailors that make that happen," said Capt. Brian Mutty, executive officer of Essex. "It's so important to have a strong understanding of STEM because without it, none of this would be possible. I am very proud to be able to open up our ship to these young adults and give them a firsthand look into everything we do, how we do it, and how it all comes together."
The Department of the Navy recognizes that a healthy STEM workforce is critical to meeting the Navy and Marine Corps' greatest challenges, and is actively engaging in efforts to improve STEM education in the United States.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy or www.twitter.com/usnavy.