In partnership with the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE), Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) hosted “Hackathon by the Sea”—a virtual hacking event for high school students in Ventura County.
This year, the Hackathon by the Sea theme “Hack the Future”, challenged students to build projects that address the future science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) needs of the world in either manufacturing or 3D printing, cybersecurity, environmental, artificial intelligence, machine learning or drones. Each category of “need” was further divided into four “future” areas: build the future, defend the future, grow the future, know the future.
Through a contract with VCOE, NAVFAC invested $20K in funding to cover the cost of building the virtual host platform, and to cover the cost of staffing and conducting the event. NAVFAC also bought the awards, swag bags, shirts and food for students, school supplies, lunch for staff, and paid the fees for all private sector speakers.
58 students from Oxnard Union, Ventura Unified, Oak Park Unified, Conejo Valley Unified, Simi Valley Unified, Los Angeles Unified and Sierra Sands Unified school districts’ and the VCOE schools used their hacking skills to produce a simple product that solved a problem within the four future areas. Potential products included creating an app, website or game that addressed their specific future problem. Volunteers from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) and Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) served as speakers, mentors and judges for the event.
Spanning over 2 days for 15 hours, the hackathon event also included a variety of workshops, including web building, blog building, internship opportunities, resume writing and interview tips. Keynote speakers also spoke with students on the importance in STEM as it relates the Department of Defense (DOD). Notable speakers included Capt. Jeffrey Chism, Commander Navy Installations Command; Kail Macias, NAVFAC EXWC Technical Director, Bagrat Minasian, NSWC PHD Acting Technical Director, and Richard Burr, NAWCWD Chief Engineer.
“Supporting Hackathon by the Sea is a deliberate investment in the current and future Department of the Navy (DON) workforce,” said Kail Macias, NAVFAC EXWC Technical Director. “By creating excitement for STEM programs and activities, our hope is students will see the value of STEM careers, and explore the option of the Navy serving as their future employer.”
Macias added it takes critical investment by the DON to develop the upcoming STEM workforce. The investment must start as early as kindergarten and last through grade school as students continue to mature and refine their career field interests.
During the event, students also had the opportunity to speak to former Navy interns specializing in STEM career fields, as they shared their experiences pursuing internships with DOD, and their transition between internships to full-time employment.
As students continued working on their projects, mentors provided drop-in support and feedback.
At the end of the event, judges announced winners in several categories, including best overall, best in each strain, judge’s choice, and winner of the most badges. 20 exceptional students received engineering exploration at-home Arduino kits.
“STEM enhances every facet of our lives. It challenges students to think critically and invent their own solutions to both complex and everyday problems,” said Carina Reeves, NAVFAC EXWC STEM Program Manager. “Hackathon by the Sea is an exceptional opportunity for students to explore STEM outside the typical classroom setting. By acting early and offering these types of extracurricular events for students, we are able build relationships with local students early in their education, and mature that relationship as students progress through their education, in hopes they will consider becoming interns and eventually civil servants for the DON.”
About Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, 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, test, and evaluation, specialized engineering, and mobile logistics capabilities to deliver sustainable facility and pragmatic expeditionary solutions to the warfighter.