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Over the past week, 46 local students gathered at Quantico Middle High School aboard MCB Quantico, Va., for the 14th edition of MCSC’s Summer Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—or STEM-- Camp.

Photo by Jim Van Meer

MCSC's Robotics-Themed STEM Camp Engages and Inspires Local Youth

24 Jun 2024 | By Johannes Schmidt, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

Last week, 46 local students gathered at Quantico Middle High School aboard MCB Quantico, Va., for the 14th edition of MCSC’s Summer Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—or STEM-- Camp.

The weeklong camp, centered around the theme of robotics, provided students who are rising 6th-9th graders with a stimulating environment to explore this fascinating—and critical— field. Working closely with teachers and MCSC team members, participants engaged in constructing Lego robots with functional arms and navigated a series of challenges using block programming. This immersive experience not only enhanced their problem-solving skills and creativity but also provided a thorough introduction to robotics and programming—skills vital for equipping the Marine Corps with advanced technological capabilities.

According to Joy Champion, Deputy Engineering Competency manager and camp director, “The exciting aspect of this camp is that STEM is a command-sponsored function, allowing anyone within the command to volunteer, regardless of their respective competency. We have a broad representation from across the command, and I’m pleased to say we have a very supportive and energetic group of individuals who are passionate about STEM.”

But with engineers and other professionals from MCSC on hand, the students were able to engage in various other activities—all of which fostered creativity and crucial skills like team building and critical thinking.

Although many of the week’s activities were built around robotics, soldering quickly became a camp favorite. In a surprise Tuesday visit, MCSC’s Commander, Brig. Gen. Tamara L. Campbell, Sgt. Maj. Jesse J. Dorsey and Capt. Isabelle M. Arvizu joined the students in the soldering activity—demonstrating their commitment to fostering future STEM professionals. Donning safety goggles, the students and the Marine leaders used soldering irons to meticulously heat and attach component leads onto circuit boards, creating wearable robotic pins with flashing "eyes." This engaging process required intense focus and provided a hands-on understanding of electrical engineering.

Afterwards, Brig. Gen. Campbell spoke with the students about the importance of STEM, highlighting its crucial role in their future and in the advancements of the Marine Corps.

Champion was elated watching the new commander interact with the students in such a hands-on manner, noting, “Encouraging STEM education among younger generations is vital for the Corps as we seek to infuse our ranks with fresh, innovative ideas and perspectives.”

“The Commandant consistently challenges us to accelerate our processes while maintaining the highest standards for the gear we provide to our Marines. By attracting bright minds with novel concepts and creative solutions, we enhance our ability to produce safe, reliable, and effective equipment for the warfighter,” she continued.

Thomas Caroll, the Engineering Competency Director, has been volunteering with the camp since 2010. Reflecting on his years of involvement as he approaches retirement this year, he shared his thoughts on

the experience, noting, "I love working with students and watching the lightbulb come on when they get things to work and start celebrating their accomplishments.”

“STEM is important because the earlier students get involved in these activities, the more likely they are to pursue careers in engineering or related STEM fields. Developing MCSC engineers is crucial. By introducing Quantico’s youth to these concepts now, we encourage them to consider these careers in the future, making it easier to hire those skill sets later on. This is an investment in our future that could pay off for the Corps or one of our sister services 10-20 years down the line,” he added.

This year’s STEM Camp exemplified a dedicated effort to cultivate the next generation of engineers and innovators. By immersing young minds in hands-on activities, the camp successfully fostered essential skills such as team building, creativity, and critical thinking. The unwavering support from MCSC team members, coupled with the enthusiastic involvement of leaders like Brig. Gen. Campbell and Sgt. Maj. Dorsey, was instrumental in making the camp a memorable and impactful experience.

Ultimately, this initiative underscores the Marine Corps' commitment to investing in the future, ensuring that today's youth are equipped with the skills and knowledge to become the engineers of tomorrow who can help equip the warfighter to fight and win on the future battlefield.

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