Home >> November 2011 Edition >> Focus: STEM Professionals Must Inspire Our Nation’s Future
Focus: STEM Professionals Must Inspire Our Nation’s Future
by Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady, SPAWAR, + Carla Voorhees, Web Strategist, DoD Public Web

FocusFig1 Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady is Commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). SPAWAR is the Navy’s Information Dominance Systems Command with the mission to make the Navy’s Information Dominance vision a reality. He offers his thoughts in this article regarding the importance of STEM training.

Through the development, delivery and sustainment of warfare capabilities in the fields of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; cyber warfare; command and control; information and knowledge management; and meteorology and oceanography; SPAWAR provides the Navy and Navy partners Information Dominance capabilities necessary to accomplish their missions. Rear Adm. Brady was recently selected for the 2011 HENAAC (Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation) Engineer of the Year Award from the Great Minds in STEM organization.

Each year, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) hosts the International RoboSub competition in our acoustic research pool in San Diego. The International RoboSub competition is sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Office of Naval Research. This year I toured this very intense competition with my son and had an opportunity to see it through his eyes.

FocusFig2 College teams from around the world test their autonomous underwater vehicles by running them through an underwater navigation course while accomplishing various demanding tasks along the way, like dropping a marker in a box or passing through different elevated gates.

The vehicles varied in size and complexity, from basic to very advanced, but one thing that was common was the excitement and enthusiasm of the participants as they prepared for their robot’s turn in the pool.

The competition reinforced for me the value of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach. We’re facing a real challenge in our country to produce the number of graduates with technical degrees we need to remain competitive in the coming years. Events like RoboSub are fun and inspire our kids.

The part I enjoyed the most was watching teams help each other through the technical challenges. It reminded me of how teamwork is so essential in science and engineering. Success in these fields is rarely a solo effort, but usually the result of a strong team working together to solve a problem.

Trying to convince your average teenagers they should pursue a STEM career field can be challenging. At the individual level, SPAWAR’s STEM professionals make a real difference by getting out into our local schools and communities. STEM professionals need to inspire, mentor and be the role model for our nation’s young people so they can see there are fun, challenging and rewarding careers waiting for those who put in the effort to excel with a STEM education.

CPI_ad_MSM1111 If you’re a student, STEM can be your ticket to success. If you’re already working in the field, ask yourself, “How can I help the next generation succeed and take over where I leave off?” Science and engineering is more than solving technical challenges, it’s igniting that spark of innovation and discovery that has made our nation great. It is critical that we sow the seeds of STEM inspiration in order to secure our nation’s future.

For more information about DOD STEM initiatives take a look at the following three resources:

Research & Engineering Enterprise: STEM
DOD STARBASE A Department of Defense Youth Program
Navy STEM2Stern

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STEM Education Coalition
This organization represents all sectors of the technological workforce, they support STEM programs for teachers and students at the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies that offer STEM related programs.
Their mission is to foster new and innovative policy initiatives designed to:

FocusFig3 – Encourage and inspire more of our best and brightest students, especially those from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, to study in STEM fields

– Improve the content knowledge and professional skills of the PK-12 STEM

– Recruit and retain highly-skilled STEM teachers

– Improve the resources available in STEM environments;

– Encourage partnerships between state and local educators, colleges, universities, museums, science centers, STEM research and development organizations, and the business, science, and technology communities that will improve STEM education

– Encourage better coordination of efforts among federal agencies that provide STEM education programs.

– Build and maintain strong relationships with key Congressional and Administration policymakers and serve as a valued source of expertise to their staffs on STEM education issues.

– Provide a valuable source of information on STEM issues, programs, and initiatives.