By Earl Bittner, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
Jacksonville, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast celebrated National Engineers Week by volunteering with the Northeast Florida Engineering Society MATHCOUNTS competition February 26 at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville, Fla.
The MATHCOUNTS Competition is the only competition program of its kind, with live, in-person events for 6th, 7th and 8th grade middle school students competing in math. This year approximately 600 students from 48 area schools participated.
"The Northeast Florida MATHCOUNTS competition is the largest competition in the country," said Jeff Killian NAVFAC Southeast Business Director. "It was the largest last year and it grew another 30 percent this year surpassing 600 6th-8th grade participants. The STEM Program in Duval County provided funding to every school in the county so each would be able to send a team."
Katharine Martin, NAVFAC Southeast utilities technical branch supervisor, leads the volunteer effort for command each year.
"The event is run entirely by volunteers from the local engineering and business community and paid for by sponsor donations from the business community," said Martin. "NAVFAC can't donate money to the event so we supply volunteers for the day. I've been on the local planning committee since I moved here in 2006. I ran the event when I was working in Guam and had the opportunity to travel with the team to the national competition in Washington D.C."
"I enjoy working with children," said NAVFAC Southeast Utilities Analyst Michele Smith. "This is the first time I have volunteered for MATHCOUNTS and was very impressed to see so many students from various middle schools competing against each other. Just seeing the excitement in their eyes when it was time to solve a math problem gave me goose bumps. For anyone who has not been to a MATHCOUNTS, volunteer next year and see firsthand what I am talking about."
The top four individuals and the top six teams will go on to represent Northeast Florida at the state competition in Kissimmee, Fla. this spring with the four individual winners there moving on to the nationals in Washington D.C.
The competition series is ideal for students who have a talent and passion for math who need to be challenged. Students engage in exciting, "bee-style" contests in which they compete against and alongside other bright, motivated students. At the local, state and national level, students win hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and prizes every year.
"The tests are hard, but the students are proud of what they can solve, and enjoy the friendly competition between schools," said Martin. "The development of the test questions and management of the competitions is excellent. I support the program because of the way it pushes the students to expand their math skills. Even if they are not the top-scoring team, they get recognition for their talent at school and at home and also get to work with professionals that value math skills."
The National Society of Professional Engineers hopes to encourage kids to learn math, explore math, and continue on to a career that uses math.
"I benefited from similar programs when I was in high school that helped me choose engineering as a profession so I try to share that lesson with the current generation," said Martin.
"I believe competition is healthy and teaches valuable life lessons in success, and failure, but there really are no losers at this event," said Killian. "This is the best and brightest students in the area and giving them a venue to showcase their intelligence goes a long way in letting them know that the community and local businesses cherish and embrace their skills."
Events are held in all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and schools worldwide through the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department. Competitions take place in more than 500 local chapters.
"I only see this event continuing to grow as more and more local organizations step up to the plate to donate their time and money," said Killian. "On behalf of the Navy and NAVFAC, we are glad to do our part."
More than six million students from across the U.S. have participated in MATHCOUNTS competitions.