George Washington Emphasizes STEM to Future Innovators

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison

YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 17, 2013) – The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted more than 200 middle school students from Yokosuka Middle School at Fleet Activities Yokosuka and Zama Middle School in Zushi for a first-hand look at how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) play a critical role in the U.S. Navy.

The STEM program on board George Washington is sponsored by the Office for Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, and aims to promote STEM majors for students.

“STEM programs help the U.S. to maintain its level of innovation in the science and technology world,” said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Phillip Durio, George Washington’s STEM event assistant coordinator.  “It’s important for our youth to understand that these subjects are vital to gaining a job in today’s workforce.  Anything we can do to promote a STEM-related major when they get out of high school is going to help both them and the U.S.”

The students were broken into several, smaller groups and attended hands-on sessions covering the history of flight and space, damage control equipment and techniques, the ship’s medical bay, and the avionics repair shop.

Lt. Cmdr. Quinn Rhodes, George Washington’s assistant air operations officer, explained the dynamics of flight and gave the students the opportunity to try on U.S. Navy flight gear.

“STEM is important for the students because it opens their eyes to how science and technology can be practical,” said Quinn.  “Being able to see STEM and how it makes everything work here aboard the carrier sparks their imagination and curiosity.”

The students applied the theory they learned about flight dynamics to balsa propeller gliders, using sticky notes as ailerons and elevators to achieve stable flight.

Coming out to the carrier is outstanding for them,” said Lt. j.g. Jessica Sheffield, a George Washington Intelligence Department division officer.  “First they’re blown away just by the size of the ship, and then we can talk about how things work on the carrier such as launching an aircraft during flight operations.”

A second group of students had the opportunity to learn about fire science and shipboard firefighting with the ship’s damage controlmen. They donned shipboard firefighting suits (FFE), air masks and tanks.

“I got to put on the firefighting gear here, but I couldn’t imagine being in it for hours,” said Andrew VanHook, a Yokosuka Middle School student.  “It’s really hot and restricts your movement.  I give these guys a lot of respect.”

STEM days are organized to give students a better understanding of the real-world applications of topics they learn in school, according to Clarence Bostic, an 8th grade science teacher at Yokosuka Middle School.  The tour and activities help interest the students in new opportunities for learning, he said.

“[On the carrier] there’s a lot of science that happens, and a lot of technical jobs,” said Bostic.  “The students can see all of these things first hand instead of just hearing about it in the classroom.  The Sailors look a lot like them, and my students can see themselves working these jobs in a few years.”

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