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NAVFAC Southeast hosts STEM Open House for local students

12 August 2023

From Jeffrey Hamlin

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Southeast (NAVFAC SE) opened its doors, August 3, to welcome 20 high school students from across three local counties, including several home school students, for a day of exploration, learning, and hands-on experience in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

The event aimed to foster interest in STEM disciplines among young minds, inspire future leaders, and showcase the exciting career opportunities that are available in the world of science and technology within the Department of Defense (DoD).

NAVFAC SE Commanding Officer Capt. Miguel Dieguez welcomed the students to the command. During his opening remarks, he underscored the significance of STEM education and its pivotal contribution to shaping the future of our nation.

"We have an obligation to inspire and prepare the next generation of leaders for the ever-changing landscape of challenges that our nation may face,” said Dieguez. “A STEM education will enable you to solve the complex problems of tomorrow, and possibly change the course of history. Our mission here today is to ignite your curiosity and enthusiasm for the remarkable world of STEM.”

The main objective of this first-time occasion was to create a platform where experts from NAVFAC SE specializing in engineering and architecture could exchange their insights related to the fields of STEM.

"This marked a pioneering initiative where we consciously reached out to students who aren't directly affiliated with NAVFAC,” said NAVFAC SE Design Director Bub LeNoir. “Our aim was to connect with students who might not have immediate access to STEM professionals."

An additional objective was to ignite interest in the SMART Scholarship Program (Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation).

NAVFAC SE has been granted authorization by the DoD to operate as a Sponsoring Facility (SF) for the SMART Scholarship Program. This initiative aims to promote and nurture enthusiasm for STEM subjects throughout students' educational pursuits.

NAVFAC SE Director of Human Resources Terry Williams highlighted, "This presents an immense opportunity for our command, the Navy, and the aspiring STEM scholars. We're poised to showcase our identity as an employer of choice for emerging STEM professionals, infusing our workforce with fresh vigor and novel perspectives."

The SMART Scholarship offers extensive perks, covering tuition, stipends, books, healthcare, discipline-specific summer internships, mentors, and post-degree positions. NAVFAC SE is currently finalizing scholarship numbers and fields for its inaugural participation year.

Participants in the SMART program who complete their studies will seamlessly transition into the workforce, armed with a foundational comprehension of the command's procedures, acquired through valuable insights and hands-on experience gained during their summer internships.

"Today’s event allows us to engage with a younger audience and could significantly enhance our command’s visibility and reputation,” said Williams. “This paves the way for a robust pipeline of STEM talent to fuel our future workforce."

The day was filled with engaging STEM activities, including a tour of a Targeting and Surveillance building project. Students saw firsthand how STEM principles are applied in real-world naval infrastructure design and construction projects.

Additionally, they visited Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Seven Two (HSM-72), where they were able to climb into an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and tour the squadron spaces. This provided the students with a direct glimpse into the recipients of NAVFAC SE's support, namely, the Warfighter.

As the event came to an end, numerous students expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to visit NAVFAC SE and witness tangible real-world implementations of STEM concepts.

"The students' feedback was overwhelmingly positive, confirming that we exceeded our objectives,” said LeNoir. “We also sparked their enthusiasm for the forthcoming STEM Camp, scheduled for the next summer at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, in collaboration with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME)."

LeNoir closed with, "STEM fields hold paramount importance for both NAVFAC and the nation at large. The demand in STEM far surpasses the number of students entering these fields, and we are committed to encouraging the bright young minds of this region to explore, or at the very least consider, STEM as a viable career path."

By providing immersive experiences of this nature and nurturing the next generation of scientists, engineers, and innovators, NAVFAC SE is sowing the seeds for a brighter, technologically advanced future for the entire nation.


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