The U.S. Navy is building diverse talent nationwide
This military branch has always valued STEM education.
Its efforts aim to increase the pipeline of tech pros
for navy careers and civilian industries
Finding the best and brightest technical professionals is a priority for the United States Navy. To accomplish its goal, this branch of the armed forces has come up with a three-pronged approach to educating youth and the nation as a whole about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“STEM education is a navy-wide institutional imperative. It’s something we’ve always done, even before STEM became a catchword,” says Captain David Bouvé, national director of navy marketing and advertising. “Our country needs to produce more tech majors than we currently have. Whether they decide to join the military or not, this is a winning message for everybody.”
Fostering diversity is not a new concept for the navy, Bouvé adds. “Diversity is a strategic imperative because the navy needs talented, smart and motivated people regardless of background. That means casting as wide a net as possible.”
STEM online, STEM on the road
STEM for the Classroom is one established navy initiative. This website, available at www.navystemfortheclassroom.com, was developed in partnership with Discovery Education, an organization that provides digital learning content. STEM for the Classroom helps middle school and high school teachers develop lesson plans.
“If a physics teacher wants to teach a unit on buoyancy, ship building, nuclear engineering, aviation or aerodynamics, for example, there are ready-made modular lesson plans on the website they can download for free,” Bouvé explains. “The lesson plans include everything from learning objectives to vocabulary to PowerPoint slides.” In some cases, teachers have invited navy personnel to teach a module, he adds.
In another initiative, the navy uses a tractor-trailer rig owned by its Detroit-based ad agency to take technology displays across the country, stopping to visit at high schools, college campuses and public events. At each stop, enlisted and commissioned officer recruiters engage the crowd. People can interact with robotic devices and computerized applications, including video brainteasers and aerodynamic lessons. The program is becoming so popular that the demand far outweighs the availability, so the navy is in the process of getting a second STEM vehicle on the road, Bouvé says.
“All the participating officers have engineering backgrounds, so they are speaking from personal knowledge and experience,” he asserts. “Our STEM vehicles showcase what a high-tech service the U.S. Navy is.”
Introducing STEM to underserved children
STEM diversity outreach is the third prong of the navy’s education strategy. It’s coordinated with the Office of Naval Research, a Department of Defense agency that provides the navy with technical advice. Navy city outreach officers, who are recalled reservists, are strategically based in diverse metropolitan areas including Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Along with their assistants, mostly career navy engineers, they visit elementary and junior high schools across the country with diverse and underserved students. During school visits they talk about the importance of STEM and the high value the navy places on these disciplines.
“Their focus is the pre-recruitment audience. It’s a chance to expose students to STEM who may not have considered it before,” Bouvé explains. The outreach team often brings items from the SeaPerch robotics program, which involves hands-on activities like building and operating remote control underwater vehicles, along with interactive displays. Team members work with teachers to help them develop STEM topic lesson plans before and after the visits.
“Sometimes kids are intimidated by math or science, especially if they had a bad early experience,” Bouvé notes. “But if you can catch them when they’re young and make them realize that activities like building underwater robotics relate to math and science, and that it can be fun and exciting, they may realize that studying these subjects can open a lot of doors.”
Recruiting uniformed personnel
Navy recruiting efforts include attendance at college fairs and job expos. The official U.S. Navy website at navy.com is a key resource for anyone interested in navy jobs. The organization’s social media links are listed there as well. “We have Facebook pages for nuclear engineers, civil engineers, and almost every specialty the Navy has,” Bouvé notes.
“We want people to know that there’s a place for everybody in the navy, and we are working hard to leverage the diverse talent pool that’s out there,” Bouvé says. “People want to join a team that looks like them and work in a place where they can fit in, with leaders they can identify with.”
Nuclear engineers and others needed
“Our biggest need is for people with strong math and science backgrounds who can be trained as nuclear engineers, who serve in uniform on submarines and aircraft carriers,” says Bouvé. “It requires some of the most technologically advanced training you are going to get anywhere in the service. Civil engineering on the construction and logistics side is another big area. In IT, we have positions for systems operators and positions in the areas of cryptology and cyber warfare.”
He notes that many additional jobs in the navy require a strong background in math and science.
A mission more than combat
Bouvé stresses that the mission of the navy is not just combat-related. “We protect the world’s oceans. We maintain the free flow of trade. We’re first responder to global disasters. That sense of importance, that sense of mission, the sense of contributing to something larger than oneself is what I’ve found most fulfilling about a U.S. Navy career.”
United States Navy
||Arlington County, VA
||To maintain, train and
equip combat-ready naval
forces capable of winning
wars, deterring aggression
and maintaining freedom
of the seas