NAVAIR

Navy engineers support STEM workshop for blind and visually impaired students

Engineers and scientists from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst volunteered to share their passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with blind and visually impaired students during a workshop in New Brunswick, N.J. May 19. (U.S. Navy photo)

Engineers and scientists from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst volunteered to share their passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with blind and visually impaired students during a workshop in New Brunswick, N.J. May 19. (U.S. Navy photo)

May 31, 2018

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JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Engineers and scientists from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst shared their passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with blind and visually impaired students during a workshop in New Brunswick, New Jersey May 19.

Approximately 35 blind and visually impaired students from across New Jersey participated in the interactive workshop, aimed at helping students with visual impairment or blindness get excited about STEM and realize a career in STEM is not out of their reach.

“This was one of the most successful and satisfying STEM events in terms of enthusiasm, participation and creative expression - the students, the mentors and the event organizers were all amazing,” said Gaetan Mangano, lead of the NAWCAD Lakehurst Education Outreach Office.

The workshop evolved out of a partnership between the NAWCAD Lakehurst Individuals with Disabilities Advisory Team (IWDAT), the NAWCAD Lakehurst Education Outreach Office, and the Employment, Development, Guidance and Engagement (EDGE) Program.

The EDGE program assists blind and visually impaired high school and college students in developing independence, self-advocacy and employment-related skills in preparation for postsecondary education and/or competitive employment.

“When our IWDAT Team asked for help from the Education Outreach Office, we immediately said yes. This collaboration is exactly how we want our office to work with all of our Diversity Group STEM initiatives and events," said Mangano.

NAWCAD Lakehurst engineers started the workshop by narrating a video that played the “sounds of the Navy” as well as a video with personal stories from blind and visually impaired adults and students who work in STEM.

They then worked with the students in a hands-on STEM challenge to design a simple support "column" out of an index card and tape that would be able to support an 11 oz. cup of rocks.

Building a column is a visual activity, but once we began the activity it became obvious that you could feel around and make the column even if you're visually impaired or blind, said one of the student participants.

We were given a task and not given much more. It was open to interpretation, which was mentally stimulating, commented another student.

"I was happy to help get these students impassioned about STEM. My own love for STEM has had such a positive effect on my life. I want them to realize that despite the obstacles they have to overcome, a career in STEM is not out of their reach,” said Stephen Carter, NAWCAD Lakehurst mechanical engineer who volunteered at the event.

After the group session, NAWCAD Lakehurst engineers sat down one-on-one with students who were interested in learning more about a career in engineering.

"That was a great event and very important for those EDGE students interested in engineering. They gained a better understanding of the types of opportunities NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] offers future engineers,” said Pat McKenna, director for Employment Services for the EDGE Program.

"The most impactful moment of the day for me was the look on a father's face expressing a hopeful joy that his son's dream of being a scientist was possible,” said Adriano Parga, NAWCAD Lakehurst IWDAT co-lead. “I felt a strong connection with this father because it reminded me of the desire I have for the good of my child. As fathers we share that in common and I am glad we were there to provide that hope.”

NAWCAD Lakehurst plans to continue its partnership with the EDGE program by offering an on-base tour to students later this summer.

NAWCAD Lakehurst Public Affairs
(732) 323-2811

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