The first-ever Aiken STEM Camp is underway, with Second Baptist Church’s York Street site (“Second on York”)
as the host site, and under the guidance of Marcus Schoultz, a South Aiken High School and Charleston Southern
University graduate who now works as a software engineer in Charleston. The program, exposing students to the
concepts and career possibilities closely linked to science, technology, engineering and mathematics,
runs August 3-7 and has 36 kids and 10 volunteers on board.
NIWC Atlantic Blasts Off With First ‘Splash Into Summer’ Camp
Posted on August 3, 2021
Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic partnered with Trident Technical College and Hanahan Recreation Center to kick off the first ever Splash Into Summer day camp.
The camp for upper elementary and middle school students, is designed with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) focus in mind, and features a celebratory blaster test session at the end of the day with water blasters the students created during the camp.
“The purpose of the event is to have an engineering challenge where the students design and build a water blaster,” said Tonya Hamann, NIWC Atlantic STEM Outreach co-director. “Once they complete the water blaster, they go into the next phase of engineering and do their testing. They get to design, build and test a product that they get to keep.”
Hamann, and fellow STEM Outreach co-director, Kelly Thompson, are no strangers to the summer camp world. They have worked hard over the years to develop different events that highlight various areas of the STEM field.
“This was our first in-person event that NIWC Atlantic hosted since we went into maximum telework for the pandemic,” said Thompson. “What really prompted us to do this particular event was the decision to do something outdoors for safety reasons. Plus it’s June and it’s going to be hot, so there must be water involved.”
In addition to the water blasters session, the camp featured a lesson in the mechanics of syringes taught by Gay Purcell, a nursing instructor from Trident Technical College. “The same mechanism that a syringe uses, which is the plunger and barrel type mechanism, is exactly what this blaster was,” said Hamann.
Using a similar stream of thought, NIWC Atlantic engineer Elizabeth Tello taught the students about the mechanics of hydraulics.
“What I really enjoyed about this camp is that we can bring the technology to the students without having to get actual equipment or machinery,” said Tello. “The concepts and sciences were there, just at a level the children can understand and relate to.”
Hamann and Thompson hope that having professionals from two separate fields speak to the students will have a lasting impact.
“We wanted to show them how their simple application of building a blaster could be applied to different career fields,” said Hamann.
The interactive element of the camp wasn’t only for the students. Camp volunteers who helped facilitate, along with the older students in attendance, designed the course on which the students tested their water blasters.
“My favorite part of the day was when we also got to use the water blasters the students built,” said Trevor Canaday, Splash Into Summer volunteer and NIWC Atlantic summer intern. “There was a field with buckets of water spread out across it, and the students were given free rein to blast each other with their functional water blasters. Eventually, they started going for the volunteers, so we were all given small water blasters too.”
According to Thompson, many of the students were disappointed the camp lasted only one day, but she knows the impact the camp had on them will surely last longer.
“I love to see the students have a good time while they’re learning something,” said Thompson. In addition to Splash Into Summer, the STEM outreach team has been busy with other events to help engage and inspire students into engineering and scientific careers such as Girls Day Out, Charleston STEMFest and Palmetto Cybersecurity Summer Camp. These events also provide NIWC Atlantic employees many opportunities to volunteer and inspire the future workforce.
SAHS graduate, Second Baptist host STEM program for students
Posted on August 3, 2021
Dozens of local students are getting a massive helping of encouragement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics this week, with assistance from Second Baptist Church and the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic, based in Charleston.
Aiken STEM Camp is underway, under the guidance of a 2008 South Aiken High School graduate who now works as a software engineer for NIWC Atlantic: Aiken native Marcus Schoultz, who can speak about STEM careers and concepts from plenty of personal experience. Schoultz leads discussions and fields questions on such topics as robots and the best steps for taking to build a website.
The Rev. Doug Slaughter, senior pastor at Second Baptist, is watching the procession and gave a thumbs-up review at the close of Tuesday’s gathering. Schoultz was similarly upbeat.
“I want to give back to the rural areas,” said Schoultz, noting that his job situation allows him to work with interns and new professionals to help promote STEM. This week’s event, he said, represents “a wonderful opportunity that Second Baptist and Rev. Slaughter ... and my job gave me to come back home and teach to our future generations.”
“We just have kids from all over,” said Slaughter, who also expressed thanks for Schoultz’s help in turning the idea into reality.
“We had a conversation. He said he’d like to do it, and we just thought this was a phenomenal opportunity for the children in our community, to be exposed to STEM, and they just have so many amazing things,” he said.
“He went to school here in Aiken and he started telling me about it, and we invited them to come, and they’re here.”
The participants, who number 36, mostly range from rising fifth graders to rising ninth graders, and have about 10 volunteers on hand to help guide the process.
Among the dozens of kids on hand for this week’s STEM festivities is Teresa Wells, who is a couple of weeks away from life as an eighth grader at Jackson Middle School.
“I’m here because I want to learn about STEM and web development and technology, and the best part about it is that it’s easy, and if it’s not, he helps us with it.”
One of the major boosters is local resident Christopher Emanuel, creator of the Sky is the Limit Foundation, described as “a nonprofit that educates and connects fathers with legal services and support,” in a recent Aiken Standard article. Emanuel also helps guide the annual True to Your Sole local shoe giveaway and directs the local Teen After School Center with the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Second on York,” Second Baptist’s facility on York Street, is the host site, remembered by some as the former site of a shopping center that had a Bi-Lo as its anchor. It has been undergoing a complete renovation since the church bought the building in January 2019, and plans are in place for its formal opening later this year.
Schoultz’s background includes a 2014 bachelor’s degree in computer science from Charleston Southern University.
Slaughter said the camp has been taking shape for about three months, with excellent support from NWIC Atlantic. “This is the first time we’ve done it, but it definitely won’t be the last time. We’re planning on trying to expand it next year, and the way it’s going, I’m sure that with the success that we’re having, they’ll want to come back next year and next year and next year, and we’re excited about having it for our kids and our community.”
The camp began Monday and is to run through Friday, leading to a 12:30 p.m. finale with a variety of prizes to be distributed on the basis of outstanding performances, as judged by volunteers who are helping guide the activities.
The Charleston-based host organization, as described on its website, “provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.”
Big Shoutout to Retired Navy Captain Janet Lomax, Comdr. Kathryn “Kat” Sampson Wijnaldum, and Cmdr. Kimberly E. Jones for serving as Girls Day Out panelists
Posted on July 26, 2021
We would like to give a big shoutout to these three women who are inspiring girls this week during NIWC Atlantic‘s Girls Day Out online STEM Camp (July 26-30)!
Retired Navy Captain Janet Lomax, Comdr. Kathryn “Kat” Sampson Wijnaldum, and Cmdr. Kimberly E. Jones are serving as panelists during the virtual event.
Thank you for passing on your knowledge to the next generation!
NIWC Atlantic STEM Team splashed into summer with their first in-person event since the start of the pandemic
Posted on July 23, 2021
Our NIWC Atlantic STEM team splashed into summer with their first in-person event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic!
Last month they hosted an outdoor activity where kids from surrounding school districts participated in an engineering build of making their own water blasters.
NIWC Atlantic engineers and interns facilitated the builds while teaching the basic principles of engineer building.
The event was free of charge, and a successful learning experience for all involved!
NIWC Atlantic STEM Team makes rewarding connections at Benedict College Summer Institute
Posted on August 26, 2020
More than a dozen professionals from Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic brought learning, mentoring and encouragement to students in underserved South Carolina communities this summer through a virtual learning institute.
Members of NIWC Atlantic’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) team participated in a six-week online format called the School-to-Work Program, which was sponsored by state and federal transportation authorities and hosted by Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, South Carolina.
STEM instructors presented to mostly high school students a general overview of NIWC Atlantic as well as specific career options in fields such as engineering, cybersecurity and program management. The NIWC Atlantic team also offered general classes in finances, leadership and interviewing skills.
“In addition to the many other STEM-related activities we hosted during the pandemic this summer, it was a rewarding endeavor to virtually send our accomplished professionals to Benedict College,” said Cdr. Jeffrey Williams, NIWC Atlantic executive officer. “They produced vibrant and thought-provoking courses, fostered connections with those who had questions about workplace diversity and racial integration within STEM fields, and planted seeds to encourage successful future STEM talent in the community.”
Dr. Vareva Evans Harris, Benedict College’s School-to-Work Program director, said NIWC Atlantic instructors created dynamic classroom environments full of hard questions, lively discussions and responses that were both intriguing and informational.
“The diverse backgrounds of the NIWC presenters gave voice and evidence to the importance of diversity in the workplace,” Harris said. “The instructors shared not only their significant accomplishments but also professional experiences and the challenges they faced.”
One instructor who volunteered his time to the program said he appreciated hearing students’ thoughts and concerns during a period of American history characterized by a strain in race relations.
“It’s our job to shine the light into dark areas,” explained Richard Gibson, a NIWC Atlantic computer scientist. “We need to let future generations know their individuality and unique contributions, no matter how big or small, are very important and will help our communities grow stronger.”
Navy leaders recently stood up “Task Force One Navy” and are calling on all military and civilian members to “lean in” to necessary conversations on issues of racism, sexism and other biases that impact naval readiness.
“This is a moment of serious introspection,” said Peter C. Reddy, NIWC Atlantic executive director. “There are currently crucial conversations going on Navy-wide, and there is a plan unfolding even now within our command that will help encourage those conversations to continue.”
Some students attending the Benedict College program were particularly interested in hearing about the experiences of Black professionals at NIWC Atlantic. Organizers noted that, in their responses, instructors were honest and transparent.
“They told students that they faced many obstacles in their careers,” said Shanda Johnson, NIWC Atlantic STEM Outreach Program director. “But the instructors went on to describe how they were able to navigate through them, to ultimately triumph and succeed.”
Johnson noted that because they represent roughly 75 percent of the nation’s future workforce, minorities and women are a talent pool that cannot be ignored, especially at organizations like NIWC Atlantic, where some of the nation’s most sophisticated technologies are developed.
“We cannot afford to lose that talent just because thousands of children in our communities were not aware of, were not exposed to or were not given the opportunity to consider pursuing a STEM career,” she said.
Kelly Thompson, NIWC Atlantic STEM Outreach Program operations manager, said precisely for these reasons, partnering with Benedict College was an excellent opportunity.
“NIWC Atlantic is an employer that celebrates diversity because we truly believe it makes us a stronger and more effective organization,” she said. “This summer program gave us the chance to amplify core NIWC Atlantic values like equality, diversity and inclusion to a cadre of young and bright individuals who will hopefully carry that message into their social circles.”
Johnson, who taught courses in leadership during the learning institute, said the message she left with students was that successful people never use difficulties as an excuse; they use them as opportunities to become better.
“These type of STEM experiences send and reinforce the message, ‘I can do this,’” Johnson said. “It helps demonstrate to children from underserved communities of color that with hard work and perseverance, they can reach for the stars.”
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.
NIWC Atlantics STEM Activities continue "Virtually" through COVID-19 Pandemic
Posted on June 17, 2020
Despite a global pandemic, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic leveraged their long-standing support to regional robotics programs and collaborated with more than 60 FIRST Lego League (FLL) volunteers to adapt community programs into virtual opportunities.
NIWC Atlantic supports over 100 FIRST teams annually and consistently has over 200 volunteers involved in the program. NIWC Atlantic provides a mentor to each school supported and the mentors work to build a relationship with the school, students, teachers and community.
NIWC Atlantic’s 2019/2020 FIRST robotics season reached over 1,000 students at nearly 100 schools. However, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the robotics season abruptly ended. The setback did not affect the spirit of members of the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Share and Learn community.
Key volunteers from the community recognized the need to develop a virtual event, bringing together FLLteams, coaches and volunteers from across the globe to celebrate the City Shaper Season. In just four weeks from idea to execution, a team of 60 FIRST volunteers from around the world hosted a world-class all-virtual tournament for the students.
“Inspiring and engaging students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is vital to growing our future workforce,” said Tonya Hamann, NIWC Atlantic’s STEM outreach coordinator.
In April, 48 teams across 20 countries participated in the Virtual Open Invitational (VOI), a robotics event that brought in more than 5,000 viewers from around the globe. Nineteen teams across all FIRST programs collaborated to manufacture and mail medals and trophies to teams that participated in VOI and its companion Virtual Expo for junior students.
As part of VOI, students from fourth to eighth grades had to build robots and complete missions. They pre-recorded videos for their judges to view. Teams also performed live robot runs that referees scored.
One of the volunteers, Aaron Bongiorno, is a junior at Palmetto Scholars Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. Aaron was also an active member of the two FIRST teams supported by NIWC Atlantic during the 2019/2020 season; FIRST Tech Challenge 8477 Rhoming Robots and FIRST Robotics Competition 3489 Category 5.
Giving back to the STEM community is part of Bongiorno’s ethos. He has actively participated in FIRST programs on NIWC-sponsored teams since third grade and is currently a Dean’s List Finalist for FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). With previous experience as a game announcer and FLL referee for South Carolina FIRST LEGO League, Bongiorno felt it was natural for him to support the VOI as a game announcer and enjoyed volunteering for this role because it provides an opportunity to have fun while interacting with the teams.
He also enjoys drawing the audience into robot matches and doing this in a virtual realm added to the challenge.
“It is great to see all the different approaches teams take to solve the missions on the FIRST LEGO League field,” he said.
Bongiorno also believes that VOI highlighted the need to be flexible and gave him the opportunity to adapt to the changing world environment quickly while responding to the needs of the community to meet the mission, and honing the leadership skills he has learned from participating on FIRST teams. Students like Bongiorno highlight the importance of NIWC Atlantic’s role in the community.
“Students, educators, and parents want to continue the stimulating activities during the summer months,” Hamann said.
NIWC Atlantic will also be hosting a virtual cybersecurity summer camp and a virtual Girls Day Out camp. Each event will offer a variety of engaging and educational classes to enrich the next generation of NIWIC employees.