The USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo, presented by Lockheed Martin, occurred from April 7-8, 2018 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. — this event is the nation’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) featuring over 3,000 hands-on exhibits, 30 stage shows and more.
The U.S. Defense Department supported this event with several exhibits in which the audience had the opportunity to interact with DoD science, technology, engineering and math professionals and mentors.
Dale Ormond, principal director for DoD’s Research Directorate Office, said that this year we have a cannon that incorporates using vacuums and air pressure, hands on robotics, a display on how missiles are made, and all sorts of hands-on things here to try to show children what we are trying to do and why science and engineering is important.
Developed to ignite the next generation’s interest in science and engineering, the expo featured over 3,000 hands-on activities showcasing this year’s theme: “Where STEM Can Take You.”
Mary Miller, the Assistant Defense Secretary for Research and Engineering, added that opportunities like these [are] where children are shown that science can be fun, and the different avenues available with engineering or science and then apply it to any field, whether it ends up in science or engineering or not.
Along with different booths and activities, the expo featured science celebrities, explorers, astronauts, physicists and inventors, including TV host and ocean explorer Danni Washington, University of Texas chemist Kate Biberdorf, World Champion of Magic Jason Latimer, DIY Sci host Steve Spangler and Xploration Outer Space host Emily Callandrelli.
Ormond said there’s a crisis in the science and technology fields as young people choose other occupations, by noting that there is an entire generation of men and women that are now getting ready to retire, and there aren't enough stem graduates from the universities to meet the industry's demand.
Ormond added that she was reminded of something once said by Mike Griffin, a former NASA administrator and current undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and said that when she was a kid, the President put a challenge on the table and said, 'We are going to put a man on the moon by the end of the 60’s.' She said that she, and a lot of others like her, were inspired by that challenge and went into engineering so they could participate. That kind of challenge — to inspire young people to go do the work, study the math and learn the science so they can go and move into these kinds of jobs — must be found.
Along with being one of the largest employers, the Defense Department also provide multiple opportunities and outreach programs to start teaching students the importance of STEM.
Miller added that the department has a large outreach program, from kindergarten all the way through post graduate. Where the department has the ability to go to schools and bring engineering, science and technology activities, there’s opportunities to bring students into laboratories to work with scientist and engineers and to establish mentorship programs for the children. Once they get to high school and college, the department can provide internship and scholarship programs where they can work for the department and also earn an education.
Story by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ignacio D. Perez
DoD News, Defense Media Activity