STEM Students Dream Big with Naval Aviation

Story Number: NNS151015-21Release Date: 10/15/2015 11:29:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Timothy Walter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (NNS) -- Some want to be engineers. Others simply want to learn more. And at least one student wants to be an astronaut.

In fact, the next possible iteration of Neil Armstrong spoke confidently as he surveyed the incredible machines surrounding him at the Wilson Air Center.

"It means a lot to me to see these aircraft because I want to be a NASA pilot and I know I'm going to have to go through a lot of training with these aircraft," said Lsymeon Boddie, a senior at White Haven High School. .

Boddie was one of several hundred students who visited the display of nearly a dozen rescue helicopters, modern jets, and antique propeller craft during the eighth annual Naval Air Orientation Day.

The event, hosted by Navy League Memphis, provides an opportunity to middle school and high school students from around the Memphis area to learn about the inner workings of modern aviation from the pilots that fly them.

Students were led by recruiters from Navy Recruiting District (NRD) Nashville, and able to put hands on the formidable F/A-18F Super Hornet, wear a CMU-33 aircrew survival vest, and peer inside a multi-spectral targeting system of the MH-60R Sea Hawk.

Cmdr. Grahame Dicks, a pilot assigned to the "Grandmasters" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, was just one of the pilots who was able to break down the inner workings to students who were ripe with questions and eager to relate them the to their courses in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

"It's good to give back and teach the students about what we do," Dicks said. "They had a range of questions concerning the helicopter and how we conduct a rescue mission. There were a lot of very insightful questions and young, curious minds."

Those questions are exactly what Ilham Tayahi likes to see. As the program lead for the STEM Virtual Academy at East High School, Tayahi is trying to cultivate that inquisitive spirit in each of the students.

"I think it's wonderful. It has opened their eyes," Tayahi said of the event. "We want to show them the connection between math and science. We show them that math is not just a boring subject. Suppose we want to build a bridge, you have to have your measurements and you have to test that bridge using the Newtons that we talk about in physics class. You have to do a stress analysis and in all of that we want to show them that connection."

Even the middle school students were already building those mental bridges as they investigated each aircraft. Keith Booker, the assistant principal for Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, whose students have been studying alternative energy this year, said one student made an immediate connection.

"We had visited a wind tunnel and learned how they can use the instruments to measure wind speed. Then we come to a presentation like this and one of the students pointed out to me that the jet has the same type of tube that we saw in the wind tunnel. So they are seeing the real-world application of what they are learning in the classroom and demonstrated in laboratories," Booker said.

The engineering aspect of each aircraft also allowed Tayahi to display a point to her students about opportunity in naval engineering.

"When I talk about the Navy, I see kids that say they want to be a chemical engineer and I tell them maybe you should look at being a nuclear engineer. The Navy needs engineers to utilize their skills throughout different fields," she said.

Her goal is not just to promote opportunity for students as they leave high school, but to remind them of their responsibility to others.

"We want them to see something where you can get out, do something good with your life and come back and help your community," she said.

But at the end of the day standing in front of some of the world's most advanced aircraft, some students just wanted to think about the obvious.

"I just like the speed," Boddie said with a smile.

NRD Nashville is one of 13 districts which make up Navy Recruiting Region East. 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.

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