Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (EXWC) has received over $13.5k from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering Laboratories and Personnel to fund fiscal year 2021 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®) Robotics Program.
NAVFAC EXWC’s involvement with FIRST is part of an enterprise-wide initiative for NAVFAC commands to participate in programs where military and civilian personnel conduct hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities with K-12 students.
“The federal government is the largest employer of scientists and engineers in the country,” said Angela Moran, Volgenau Chair for STEM Education and Outreach at the United States Naval Academy.
In accordance with the National Defense Strategy, competitiveness for attracting STEM personnel is vitally important for U.S. national and economic security. NAVFAC EXWC’s FIRST funding comes as a concerted effort for Navy commands to fuel the future DOD workforce.
“Unlike the private sector, the DOD cannot hire foreign students and the pool of eligible applicants is shrinking,” said Carina Morgan, NAVFAC EXWC STEM Coordinator. “By engaging students early, studies show the likelihood of students selecting STEM concentrations in college increases significantly.”
FIRST—a not-for-profit public charity—strives to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build STEM skills, inspire innovation, and foster a well-rounded life of capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership.
School districts who received FIRST funding include Camarillo, Conejo Valley, Fillmore, Oxnard, Santa Paula and Ventura. Specific schools include Ace Charter HS, Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA), Channel Islands High School, kidSTREAM Children’s Museum, Laguna Vista Elementary, Sunset School K-8, Simi Valley High School and the Ventura County Office of Education Career Education Center.
Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme also received FIRST grant money.
“Every dollar from the awarded grants for NAVFAC EXWC, and the other Naval Base Ventura County warfare centers offer the resources our local schools need to participate and host STEM extracurricular activities,” said Kail Macias, NAVFAC EXWC Technical Director. “Our goal as a warfare center is to build naval career awareness amongst students at an early age. Studies show that students who demonstrate strong talent and interest in STEM are initially attracted to STEM through extracurricular experiences—such as the FIRST Robotics program.”
FIRST funding comes after recent 2018 data from the World Economic Forum calculated China has largely surpassed India and the U.S. in STEM graduates per population.
Due to the novel coronavirus, mentors, coaches and teams are unable to meet in-person to begin preparing for upcoming competitions.
“The safety and wellness of NAVFAC EXWC’s sailors, civilians, and the FIRST community is our top priority,” said Morgan. “The upcoming FIRST season will continue as mentors will correspond with coaches and their teams, preparing them for the 2021 world championship in April.”
Each FIRST competition season culminates local and regional events where qualifying teams compete for awards and a spot in the world championship. The FIRST season begins in September, with some teams competing in January depending on their age demographic.
NAVFAC EXWC will sponsor a regional competition tentatively set for March 2021. All team levels are scheduled to participate in the upcoming competition.
About Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC):
NAVFAC EXWC is a command of more than 1,300 dedicated federal employees, contractors, and military personnel who provide science, research, development, testing, evaluation, specialized engineering, and mobile logistics capabilities to deliver sustainable facility and pragmatic expeditionary solutions to the warfighter.