By Sue Brink, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Several Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast employees volunteered to serve as judges for the Paterson Elementary School, Fleming Island, Florida, science fair competition, Nov. 30.
The employees, supporting NAVFAC Southeast's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach efforts were Public Works Business Line Facilities Management Supervisor Caleb Romero, Environmental Business Line Natural Resource Specialist Nancy Allen, Capital Improvements Business Line Supervisory Fire Protection Engineer Taylor Hudson, and Environmental Business Line Forester Timothy Money.
"I've worked with youth as much as possible my whole career," said Money. "I know it sounds corny, but if we can encourage young people to excel or to become interested in the sciences at this age (elementary school), it just may be what will help them excel as adults or even choose some aspect of the sciences as a career when they grow up."
NAVFAC Southeast Business Director Jeff Killian said the command has supported Paterson's competition for six years. He said the competition is fierce because Florida's Clay and Duval Counties have had the largest participation in science fairs of any school district in the U.S., for at least ten years running.
"It is clear we are making an impact with the caliber of our judging, as evidenced by the fact that the kids' best projects make it to the county and district competitions," said Killian. "Five of the 30 projects entered in the competition our judges selected as 'placing' and are now headed to the district competition."
Money, who has participated for two years now, said the judging duties are fairly straight forward.
"We look for the use of the scientific process and if it is presented appropriately," said Money. "The students are so young, but the bottom line is that it's actually pretty neat to see what some of them come up with. Last year, one student used CD cases to make little miniature rhizotrons to study root growth!"
"Working with our youth gives us a brief preview to see if we're on the right track to discover the future problem-solvers, game-changers, paradigm-breakers and lifestyle-makers of our world," said Romero, who has participated in this event for the past six years. "It also gives us the opportunity to give a little guidance to those kids on the right track on how to impress those people in the future that will be giving them more than just a grade. They could be getting an opportunity for the beginning of a career."