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NSWCPD Hosts STEM Outreach Program for Local High School Students during Engineers Week

14 March 2023

From Gary Ell, Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division

ROSEMONT, Pa. - The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division concluded its National Engineers Week celebration by hosting a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach event with students from Harriton High School on Feb. 24, 2023.

NSWCPD supports a broad range of outreach programs in order to inspire students to pursue careers in the STEM disciplines to develop the future workforce, as well as provide opportunities for engagement to develop the current workforce.

The 35 students from Harriton High School, from Rosemont, Pa. had a chance to participate with hands-on STEM demonstrations, as well as hear from NSWCPD Director Research, Development, Testing, and Engineering (RDT&E) Sean Brennan.

Brennan quizzed the students by holding up a can of soda, chocolate and a cell phone. He asked the students what these items all had in common. He explained to the students why the Navy is so very important to global trade, saying, “Ninety percent of the world’s stuff comes by sea. That stuff at some point was on a ship to get here today. How do we keep that stuff moving, and how do we keep that stuff safe? We need the Navy to do that! We have to keep the seas open and keep our adversaries (who don’t want that stuff moving), away. While keeping those adversaries away, we are also protecting our country - and that is why we have a Navy, and that is why we are here.”

“We have to outsmart our adversaries, and how do we do that? We do that by getting good scientists and engineers and that is why we are going to need you,” Brennan added.

The students participated in a career panel with several of NSWCPD engineers who discussed their paths to the STEM field, and provided advice on mastering both academic and life challenges. Facilitated by NSWCPD STEM Coordinator Tristan Wolfe, panel members included: Shreyanish Shah, mechanical engineer; Julinette Bailey, electrical engineer; and Edward Carter, mechanical engineer.

“In 2017 we established a vision for STEM Outreach to develop the future workforce and engage the current workforce through participation in activities such as this event. This gives us the opportunity to educate, inspire, and engage students and to give them a glimpse of what a career in naval engineering would look like. The hands-on demonstrations are designed to open up curiosity, stimulate creativity, and spark interest in STEM,” Wolfe said.

During a feature presentation by Dr. Joi Spraggins, Legacy Bridges, Inc., students explored the educational opportunities at Legacy Bridges STEM Academy Inc.

“The NSWCPD STEM education and career-connected program provided us with a hands-on approach that inspire the next generation of a NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) Workforce and Community Partnership,” Spraggins said.

Legacy Bridges’ mission and vision are to develop legacy leadership and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and business-education using NASA Mission Directorates and knowledge transfer solutions that advance scientific research and discovery.
Allison Hice, a mechanical engineer at NSWCPD presented an overview and a myriad of opportunities within the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE).

Hice introduced the students to a multimedia demo of FLEET - a web-based STEM competition that is free to U.S. students in grades nine through twelve. According to Hice, FLEET utilizes the youth friendly model of gamification to engage high school students in naval ship design and enables them to apply the real-life applications of STEM. Working individually, students compete via a web-based platform to complete several scenarios faced by naval engineers on a daily basis in the field. The entire competition occurs online and can be downloaded through the ASNE website.

Nyanthen Bantoe, a chemistry teacher from Harriton High School, heads the Partnering for Opportunity, Wisdom, Esteem and Responsibility (POWER) Program at Lower Merion School district. Recognizing the importance of STEM, his students gained valuable insight attending the event. He said, “Our day at the Navy Yard was spent engaging with engineering professionals and making practical connections to what they are taught in high school and how they could apply those skills in a job setting. Applying the learned skills to problem solve in ways that can make our world better was a major take away from the student experience.”

During the STEM demonstrations students were given real world challenges that concentrated on projects such as buoyancy, where students built a boat from styrofoam. They securely attached a mast at the center of the hull, determined the center of gravity (CG). They learned why it is important for the CG of a ship to be below the center of buoyancy (CB). They calculated the maximum list angle to maintain a righting moment and observed what happens when the CG moves above the CB. It capsizes!

Another project the students experienced was the hand boiler demonstration. Students learned that pressure increases when temperature increases for a constant volume. The students used their own body heat to increase the temperature in the bulb of the hand boiler, which also increased the pressure causing the liquid to move up a tube that was fitted into a smaller bulb at the top. Depending on their hand temperature, the hand boiler reached equilibrium with different amounts of liquid in each bulb. If their hands were warm enough, all of the liquid is forced out of the bottom bulb, and some of the air bubbles through the liquid, giving the illusion of boiling. The students learned that U.S. Navy submarines and aircraft carriers are powered by nuclear reactor plants. In these plants, pressurized hot liquid reactor coolant is used to boil water in a steam generator. This steam drives turbines to provide propulsion and electricity in these vessels.

“NSCWPD is committed to STEM and our primary goal is to attract and engage a high-achieving, diverse pool of students into the pipeline. We are doing that by increasing the total number of participants by targeting communities that are underrepresented in the STEM field and enhancing the quality of STEM education in the Greater Philadelphia region,” Wolfe said.

For more information about these STEM projects or mentorships, contact

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.


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