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HITting It Out of the Park: NSWC IHEODTD Educates Students During Local STEM Event

Indian Head, MD — March 17, 2020 - Nick Schombs, Cartridge Actuated Device/Propellant Actuated Device (CAD/PAD) Fleet Support Team (FST)/Mishap Investigation Support Team (MIST) lead, had just weathered a 15-minute grilling on the uses of technology from Mason Whetzel, 5, and Dylan Whetzel, 8, during the fifth annual History, Industry, Technology, and Science (HITS) Expo when he took a step back and said to no one in particular, “Wow, those were some really good questions.”

Those wouldn’t be the only good questions asked either, as personnel from Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head EOD Technology Division (IHEODTD) educated local children on the command’s role supporting the warfighter at St. Charles High School in Waldorf, Maryland. The annual event on Saturday, March 7, drew more than 5,500 attendees and combined the Charles County Public School’s (CCPS) history and science fairs with various STEM demonstrations, such as the SeaPerch underwater robotics competition and the RoboRaptors Technology Robotics Competition team.

“The HITS Expo is a fun and unique opportunity to highlight our students’ abilities in history, science, STEM and world languages,” said Jack Tuttle, a CCPS social studies content specialist and event organizer. “In the last five years, the program has grown considerably in size and popularity. Not only do we have more student competitors in the events, the number of events has grown from originally just the history day and science fair contests, to now having the additional Sea Perch and Polyglot Game events.”

Tuttle said the HITS Expo serves to do more than highlight the good work of our students and student teams in CCPS: it also emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to instruction, underlining the need to teaching the whole student and helping staff, students and the general public to better understand the connections in learning.

Students who visited the NSWC IHEODTD booth learned about the critical technologies developed by one of the county’s largest employers. The command’s display included an X-32 Stealth Fighter ejection seat to give students and their parents a visual understanding of the instrumental role CAD/PADs play in ensuring a pilot successfully ejects during an emergency. Adam Shaker, a NSWC IHEODTD Robotics Branch mechanical engineer, also provided demonstrations using an EOD robot to emphasize how this technology keeps EOD operators safe while deployed.

“It really is a great opportunity for us to give back to our community and show these students what a background in STEM can lead to,” said Vince Rogers, an equipment specialist with the CAD/PAD FFST/MIST. “Critical work is done here to give our fleet and warfighter the advantage and to return home safely. For us to showcase that, while also engaging the students with some really cool systems, is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The command’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Kerry Clark, was on hand to present the 2020 Naval Science Award Program, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. The 2020 recipients were Christopher Baldwin and Jacob McKnew in the middle school category, and Amanda Ihama in the high school category. NSWC IHEODTD’s Dr. Martin Chernoff and NSWC Dahlgren Division’s Spencer Beloin and Karé Collins judged the competition.

“This was my second year organizing the judging for the Naval Science Award Program at the Charles County HITS Expo,” said Chernoff. “My favorite part is speaking directly with the individual students presenting their hard work. When speaking with high school students, I try to take the opportunity to relate how the topic they studied is relevant to us and let them know about some of the internships and our scholarship for service programs available through the Navy.”

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