For Immediate Release: June 17, 2011
By Geoff S. Fein, Office of Naval Research
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is a critical element of both innovation and diversity for the Navy and the United States at a time when the rules of the working world have fundamentally changed, the Chief of Naval Operations said at a June 15-16 conference in Alexandria, Va.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told attendees on day two of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Naval STEM Forum that the sea service has made great strides in recognizing the need to actively promote STEM education awareness.
“Now, we need to be clear-eyed about what it will take over time to realize the naval STEM workforce goals the [Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus] discussed yesterday,” Roughead said.
On June 15, Mabus outlined the Navy’s plan to double STEM funding, from the current $54 million, on initiatives that included an effort to inspire, engage and educate students; employ, develop and retain naval STEM professionals and collaborate across the service and with other organizations to maximize the benefit to the Navy and Marine Corps.
In addition to the secretary’s proposal, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, chief of naval research, detailed during his day one speech a new $8 million STEM Grand Challenge seeking ideas aimed at boosting K-12 educational performance in the sciences.
During his address, Roughead acknowledged a new summer STEM academy led by Temple University to be held on the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The program, set to open this summer, will leverage naval engineering and medical experts to be mentors for junior high and high school students considering more advanced STEM pursuits.
While the CNO acknowledged other STEM efforts underway across the service, he said more could be done.
“There is room for wider participation, for more coordination between our various initiatives, for new partnerships, and for better methods to assess what types of outreach really build the interest we aim to achieve,” Roughead said.
Attendees praised the Navy for gathering the diverse cross-section of leaders to collaborate on ways to kindle a national interest in STEM.
Jennifer Hsu, partnerships and operations director of Iridescent, a nonprofit organization that has developed learning centers and programs to reach youth in under-represented communities, said the forum was the perfect size to enable networking opportunities and keep the focus on STEM. The forum showed “an incredible amount of foresight and investment by ONR,” Hsu said.
“The conference has been highly successful,” said Dr. Mariano R. Sto. Domingo, a research associate and program coordinator in the department of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “They were able to gather individuals with the influence and know-how, and that’s very important.”
Domingo said the STEM conference gave him hope for his 9-year-old daughter who has an interest in engineering. He said the schools are not designed to encourage her interest. “I am hopeful things will be more accessible.”
Nathan Hagan, who works in material sciences for Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock and was a speaker on the forum’s student panel, said “It’s good to see so many programs dedicated to [furthering STEM awareness].”
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.