Award winners from the 2024 New Jersey Southern Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The 2024 New Jersey Southern Junior Science and Humanities Symposium brought together high school students from around Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst to share research on a wide variety of topics. (U.S. Navy photo)

NAWCAD Lakehurst welcomes high school students to science symposium with eye on the future

Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst hosted an annual science symposium on Feb. 9 featuring local students whose ingenuity could someday support the warfighter. 

The New Jersey Southern Junior Science and Humanities Symposium promotes research and experimentation in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields for high school students and recognizes outstanding achievement. The students compete for scholarships and other awards, with the top five finalists from the Lakehurst event advancing to the Department of Defense National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in New Mexico later this year. 

In his opening remarks, Jack Martenak, Lakehurst’s technical director and chief engineer, said the creativity and diverse perspectives the students brought to their research are the same qualities that help Lakehurst’s employees continue their mission of supporting the warfighters who keep the country safe. 

“Aside from considering future career pursuits, take hold of the present,” Martenak said. “Take full advantage of this competition and authentic learning experience to strengthen your skills and confidence. You never know what opportunities and further learning can come from a new collaborative partnership.” 

The judges for the symposium included personnel from NAWCAD Lakehurst; Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division; the U.S. Army Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center; the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium; and Ocean County College.  

Research projects included oral presentations on a potential new design for safer helmets to reduce traumatic brain injuries, and how a change in technology can make ships used to keep the supply chain moving more environmentally friendly. There were also poster presentations where students shared research on topics that directly affect lives in and around Lakehurst. One student looked at the hydrological impacts of developed lagoonal systems in Barnegat Bay, while another discussed his work developing an app to help local crabbers determine if they can keep their catch. 

NAWCAD Lakehurst Education Outreach Site Lead Gaetan Mangano, who has been supporting the regional NJ symposium for over ten years, said it was another very impressive showing by all the students involved. 

“Year in and year out the students presenting at this symposium never cease to amaze us with their intelligence and poise to passionately present their research and innovation,” Mangano said. “Our workforce generously supports this symposium in a variety of ways, including providing research paper reviewers, finalist presentation judges, symposium navigational mentors, and event coordination, including recognition plaques.” 

Mangano said the success of the event at the local and national level after 62 years is a “testament to the Department of Defense’s dedication to encouraging and fostering STEM education and opportunities across the country.”  

The symposium is one of several STEM education outreach programs supported by NAWCAD Lakehurst. Other programs include capstone projects at the university level and scholarship programs to increase student interest in STEM fields at the middle school, high school, and college levels. Students can also learn more about the work done at Lakehurst through hosted tours of its labs, test sites, and manufacturing facilities. 



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