By Lt. Timothy Palik, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Expeditionary Warfare Center Public Affairs
PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (EXWC) hosted day one of a weeklong Naval Base Ventura County Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Day Camp June 20-24.
Twenty high school students from the Ventura County area began their week with Capt. Jay Mitchell, EXWC's commanding officer.
Using real-world examples of future and current projects, Mitchell illustrated where STEM-profession opportunities could lead the students due to an increasing need for graduates in STEM-related fields, even future opportunities within NAVFAC EXWC.
After the opening remarks, EXWC Expeditionary Engineering Director Cody Reese spoke on a number of engineering topics, including his own experiences working at EXWC. After the brief, small teams were formed to perform hands-on projects regarding water sanitation, 3-D printing, and rapid-set cement.
For the rapid-set cement project, each team was given a mixing tub, trowel, box of cement, and vague instructions. Their task was to determine, without any measuring devices, the appropriate amount of water to add to achieve a proper mix of cement by developing their own method of measurement and mixing. During the mixing phase, cement and concrete properties and the curing process were discussed. Within the hour, students saw the results of their work in a very warm container of firm, cured cement.
Following the engineering division's cement project, Vern Novstrup of the EXWC Environmental Department highlighted the importance of environmental engineering in today's society, and introduced a water filtration competition. Students had to develop the best and most cost efficient filter using a variety of filter media. Novstrup described all filter media properties and the groups designed and estimated the cost of their filters. In a time-constrained environment to simulate a real-world schedule, the teams moved to the general use laboratory to begin constructing their filters. Each filter was placed in the testing apparatus and filled with unclean water. The resulting filtered water samples were tested for a handful of variables including conductivity, pH levels, and turbidity.
During lunch, 10 EXWC employees representing various divisions and departments were paired up with small groups of students to conduct a mentoring session. Students and mentors were provided lists of questions to initiate discussion regarding the steps from high school to college, then to their first job potentially in a STEM-related field. Mentors used the opportunity to discuss some of their firsthand experiences and lessons learned along the way.
The culminating hands-on project, started with a trip outside to the Ocean Facilities Program test tank. Students received a concise set of instructions regarding operation of one of the program's underwater Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Each student was given a chance to learn the movements of the ROV inside the tank and experience its ability to become neutrally buoyant. After the familiarization time, students were given the challenge of using the ROV hand to grab a floating rope in less than two minutes. It quickly seemed precise operation of the ROV was no easy task. After the challenge concluded, students were given instruction on a much larger and more capable ROV. Engineering principles and mechanics were discussed as they related to the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of this much larger ROV in contrast to the small ROV the students had operated.
As the EXWC portion of STEM-week concluded, all students were able to leave with an increased exposure to the vast capabilities and opportunities that exist within NAVFAC EXWC. The students were challenged to recall important information discussed during Mitchell's opening remarks and were reminded throughout the day the question was asked, "Why do we do this? To support the war fighter!"