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FRCE Brings Engineering to Eastern North Carolina Classrooms

16 March 2023

From Joseph Andes

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) gave students throughout Eastern North Carolina a hands-on look at careers in engineering as part of the depot’s 2023 National Engineers Week outreach efforts.

Engineers from the depot visited four elementary schools, 18 middle schools and four high schools and engaged with more than 2,700 area students.

More than 30 FRCE engineers participated in the outreach efforts, visiting area schools to discuss science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as the role engineers play at the depot.

“Providing support to STEM education programs is an important part of our commitment to the local community,” said FRCE Executive Director Mark Meno. “National Engineers Week provided us another opportunity to engage with area students and hopefully inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. We were able to highlight the important work engineers perform at the depot as well as the career opportunities offered here.”

STEM outreach falls under the umbrella of the Fleet Support Team’s Advanced Technology and Innovation (ATI) Team. Michelle Smith, who coordinates kindergarten through 12th grade educational outreach for the ATI Team at FRCE, said these engagements have been well received by area schools and have grown steadily over the years.

“Our outreach team is involved with engineering and STEM-based initiatives year-round, but National Engineers Week is by far our largest effort,” said Smith. “So much so that we spread the events over three weeks instead of one. Each year, we get requests from new schools, opening the door to additional opportunities for engagement throughout the rest of the year.”

Although 2023 National Engineers Week ran from Feb. 19-25, Smith said the depot’s efforts began Feb. 13 and wrapped up Mar. 4 which is World Engineering Day.

“Engineers from FRCE East have been developing and delivering National Engineers Week programs in Eastern North Carolina for more than a decade,” said Smith. “Because every presentation includes an engineering-related design challenge, it is informative and enjoyable for students and teachers alike.”

Sheri Hale, a STEM teacher at Pamlico Middle School, said her students enjoyed the interactive nature of FRCE’s presentation and the way it related to material taught in her classes.

“The engineering design process is something my students are familiar with because it's the first thing I teach in my STEM program,” said Hale. “The design challenge fit right in and they loved it.” 

“My students get to have opportunities through FRC East that they would never get to experience otherwise,” continued Hale. “Experience is the key word. The design challenges and the conversations that happen between the engineers and my students are priceless.

Chris Rivera, an engineer at FRCE, cited the discussion between engineers and students as an essential aspect of the visits. He said the opportunity to talk to engineers can help clear up misconceptions about the job and inspire the students.

“Sometimes they are scared off by the math involved in engineering,” said Rivera. “They’re told it is much scarier than it actually is. I want to make sure they understand that even if they're weak in math, they can get through it. I struggled sometimes. But you can work through it. If you are persistent and you know how to work with a team, there's a really good chance that you'll make an excellent engineer.”

FRCE’s participation in National Engineers Week is just one facet of an extensive education and outreach effort. These engagements encompass activities ranging from deployment of STEM carts at local elementary schools to introducing students to science and technology careers utilizing a mobile fabrication space called the FABLAB.

According to Rivera, all of these outreach efforts showcase the career opportunities available at FRCE and are helping to cultivate the depot’s future workforce.

“Many of these students have grown up here and love the area,” said Rivera. “This is their home. Knowing what we do and knowing that there are engineering jobs right here can really change the trajectory of their future. I think that’s very important.”

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

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