The relationship that began with U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command — NAVSEA — partnering with the Urban Youth Racing School to establish a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math academy at the Naval Yard has been strengthened by the voyage of ten of the STEM Academy students to historic Tuskegee University for an intensive, two-day, Navy-backed training session on the renowned campus.
The students will train in naval engine and remote aerial reconnaissance vehicle design and maintenance while in Alabama. They will work out of the Navy-funded engine, mechanical dissection, aerospace flight and electrical engineering labs at Tuskegee.
“This trip came about through our grant from the United States Navy, and [separately,] the Navy also gave a huge grant to Tuskegee for stationary programs and strong technology, and [naval officials] wanted to let our kids be a part of the experience,” said Urban Racing School Founder Anthony Martin. “They will get to go into a facility built with naval dollars, and this also gives them a chance to walk on a college campus and see what [college life] is like.
“This is vitally important for them,” Martin continued. “Because at the end of the day, the goal is to steer these kids to STEM-related careers, or at least expose them to it.”
Such a trip and the long-term positive effects of the STEM Academy are crucial to America’s standing in respects to tech-heavy industries. A host of reports and studies show that America is slipping in manufacturing and engineering, rapidly losing ground to Asian countries.
Closer to home, the effects of STEM slippage is even felt in the Navy, as it is losing personnel due to retirement, and require capable replacements if the U.S. Navy wants to remain the world’s greatest sea force.
In fact, NAVSEA Commander Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy admitted as much during the ceremony in June when the Stem Academy was established.
“There are large numbers of STEM professionals that work every day in the U.S. Navy who are retiring over the next few years. In NAVSEA alone, about 40 percent will retire in the next five years,” McCoy said at the time. “Think about the challenge we’re facing. Think about the opportunities for young people to ride the STEM wave.”
Although this is a Navy funded and sponsored initiative, Martin said it’s not about getting youth to consider the Navy — although as a side effect of STEM Academy students going to Tuskegee, he wouldn’t mind it.
“The Navy does want to get more kids involved, but this is not about recruiting. If they choose a career in the Navy then that’s phenomenal, but if not, the Navy wants them to know about different science and technology careers,” Martin said, noting that 80 percent of jobs in the Navy go to civilians. “But the admirals did come in and introduce our kids to the Navy’s science and technology, and that’s where the Tuskegee trip comes in. It’s more about the experience and exposure.
“We couldn’t take all 22 students,” Martin continued. “But our goal is to do this every year. This is a 22-week program, and for the kids to be a part of it all through summer and into the fall shows their commitment, and also shows the stereotype that African-American students have no interest in STEM-related courses and programs are false.”