2021 marks the tenth anniversary of Ship to Shore, a fruitful partnership between Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD), and Temple University’s Youth Summer Camp Programs. This partnership was born in 2011 from the mutual goal to foster interest and engagement for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives in the Greater Philadelphia area’s youth.
“Programs like this are critical in attracting and engaging a high achieving, diverse pool of students to the NSWCPD STEM pipeline, inspiring and improving STEM proficiency in the greater community, growing NSWCPD identity and STEM culture through STEM outreach participation, and developing and enhancing the NSWCPD workforce through that participation,” explained Tristan Wolfe, NSWCPD’s STEM outreach program manager.
Year after year, Temple University’s STEM Camps have continued to be nothing short of a thriving environment for middle-grade students (sixth to eighth grades). During Ship to Shore, campers explored their interests within STEM fields, learned about potential careers, and even got involved with NSWCPD’s mission.
“It’s all about connecting with our communities and supporting the kids,” said Derrick Myers, program coordinator of STEM Scholars, another Temple University youth program.
During summer 2021, Ship to Shore campers had the opportunity to investigate ‘Neighborhood Ecology’ as a part of their science curriculum. With safe and simple materials, such as water and soil samples, campers learned to collect, analyze, and present data relating to atmospheric pressure, soil’s potential hydrogen (pH) level, water contaminates and even weather forecasting.
Next, they dove into a unit on Python programming with appropriately sized applications towards the ‘Big Data’ portion of the Ship to Shore computer science module.
“Learning Python gives kids a solid foundational base for any future careers in software development or data analysis,” Peter Nguyen, a Temple University professor, who elaborated “Being given an introduction into the lingo, navigation, and applications of data packages and coding languages sets kids up to be able to pursue so many different careers in STEM fields.”
With the ever-expanding world of technology and cybersecurity, the Python programming module allows middle-grade students to have a well-rounded introduction to computer science concepts.
“Everything is Data,” Nguyen stated simply, “Every company needs someone to clean, transform, and analyze their data; the opportunities in this field are endless.”
Additionally, STEM campers participated in various robotics challenges over the course of their program. These challenges can be anything from friendly competitions between campers to individual explorations of robotic and engineering concepts. For example, one of the many modules within the robotics portion of Ship to Shore is the pre-trials for the Seaperch competition.
Teams of anywhere between six and eight campers constructed Seaperch vessels over the course of their four weeks of camp. From buoyancy to density, the campers had to master concepts of engineering in order to complete an obstacle course during the final days of camp.
To craft their vessels, campers learned to operate various power tools, soldering irons, and Computer-aided design (CAD) systems. On the day of their navigation trial, campers performed last-minute triage on their vessels to demonstrate the fast-paced problem-solving skills they acquired throughout Ship to Shore.
Interwoven into each section of the camp sessions are mathematics-based activities and challenges. The math portion of Ship to Shore is individually tailored to meet each camper’s level of achievement, background, and interest. Ship to Shore’s Temple instructors promote and foster campers’ academic and personal development with this particular focus on supporting campers’ individual needs.
“We try to help our campers develop their teamwork, engineering, and collaboration skills,” explained Nguyen, “It’s [Ship to Shore] teaching the kids so much more than just STEM concepts.”
During the two sessions of approximately two weeks of instruction, STEM campers participated in multiple challenges, activities, and competitions, all aiming to further their understanding of various niches within STEM fields. Many of the modules were a part of incentive learning initiatives. One of the camper’s favorites was the ‘Temple Token’ system, in which campers can earn ‘Temple Tokens,’ which they then exchange for prizes like video games, gift cards and Temple University merchandise.
With STEM Camp in its final days, campers put their Seaperch vessels to the test and presented their projects to judges from Temple and NSWCPD. They learned to pitch their vessel and their findings to Temple and NSWCPD employees through a structured marketing presentation. In this closing stage of Ship to Shore, campers had to challenge their analysis and presentation skills to successfully demonstrate all they had learned. The campers’ pitches were a cumulative assessment of their communication, collaboration skills, and confidence that campers have built during Ship to Shore.
Ultimately, the goal of Ship to Shore is to provide campers with a balanced introduction to STEM concepts, Naval engineering, and communications, giving campers a solid foundational knowledge to build upon in their future.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.