May 12, 2014
NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — NAVAIR and NAWCAD employees provided fun, hands-on experiences to students at the 3rd annual USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., from April 26-27.
Seven engineers from several NAVAIR sites hosted a booth during the two-day event where more than 325,000 people, including students of all ages, along with their families, came from around the country to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“The goal for this event was to inspire the future scientists and engineers,” said Mini Balachandran, a lead engineer for manufacturing and quality, who participated in the event. At the same time, it’s a way to do outreach and tell people what we, at NAVAIR, do.”
The NAVAIR volunteers helped kids build straw rockets and test them on a straw rocket launcher. Jason Collins, Air Vehicle engineer, showed off rocket and fighter plane models. David Price, an engineer from Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, brought 3-D models to display, including an iPhone 4 cover created from a 3-D printer using nylon powder. Jason Burns, manufacturing engineer from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, used a Romer Arm Laser Scanner, a robotic arm with an optical reader attached to the end of it, which he used to make and show participants 3-D images of their hands.
“Everyone enjoyed learning about the Romer Arm Laser Scanner and how its capabilities are useful in everyday life, and also learning about the physics behind building and launching pneumatic straw rockets,” said Kristin O’Malley, MQ-8C Fire Scout deputy class desk. “It is wonderful to see a child's eyes light up when they see science and engineering in motion and then relate that to what they are learning or will be learning in school.”
Another highlight of the event was the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, which took place upstairs in the convention center during the festival. Sponsored by the Army, Department of the Navy and Air Force, the symposium gave volunteers an opportunity to mentor high school students who were among 225 finalists of regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposia.
“The kids asked a lot of questions during the mentoring sessions,” said Balachandran, who is also the co-founder and publicity chair for STEM-ING, or STEM-Inspiring the Next Generation. “The best question, in my opinion, came from one of the high school students at my table, Diana, who asked what I like most about my job.”
Balachandran answered passionately: “As an engineer, not only do I like to embrace data, analyze data, look at data and make wise and critical decisions based on that, but I also love to meet and work with people. I get to travel to various places across the country, see places that I’ve never been to and meet people.”
Diana responded that she thought engineers only worked in labs and didn’t get to meet people, Balachandran said. Now, she said she is excited to go into a career in engineering.
“She just made my day when I heard that,” Balachandran said. “I was able to break that stereotype thought about engineers.”
NAWCAD Public Affairs