June 28, 2013 --
By Carden Hedelt, MCSC Corporate Communications
Quantico High/Middle School student Destini Entzminger, 13, looked like she was poised to come in first place in a challenge during the Quantico Summer Academy, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics camp held yearly at the school.
The challenge was simple: the group whose LEGO robot could cross the lightest balsa wood bridge wins. Destini’s bridge was the lightest of them all, as was her robot, which she built long so that part of the robot’s weight would always be on ramps leading up to and away from her bridge.
It was a lack of testing that doomed Destini’s bridge, as her wheeled robot bottomed out on the ramp leading up to the crossing. Even so, her mentor for the week, Marine Corps Systems Command technologist Kevin Hovis, could not have been more proud.
“When she got the challenge, she asked what she could do about the robot before I mentioned anything,” he said. “When all the instructors got together last week that’s something we had to struggle with, so seeing Destini be able to think critically and ask those questions was very impressive.”
In fact, the goal of the camp, held June 17-21, was to get the adolescent campers to think critically and expose them to STEM fields. During the week-long camp, students used LEGO Mindstorm robot-building sets to solve a variety of problems and do activities similar to those their teachers, all employees of MCSC and the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren, experience daily.
Destini was the only student in her group to attend the camp throughout its duration. For most of the week, she tried to figure out different challenges with Hovis’ help.
“It was hard because it was just me and other groups had three or four people in them,” she said. “But I had someone who was here to help me and answer all my questions, so that was helpful.”
Destini’s mother, Denise Entzminger, said she could see a difference in her child at home during the week.
The younger Entzminger, whose brother also attended the camp, spent hours trying to solve the problems and challenges given to her at camp.
“She just would not stop thinking about all her challenges,” Entzminger said. “That’s what really encouraged me about this experience for her—that it came home with her.”
It encouraged Jake Joseph, assistant director of the STEM Education Alliance, who helped facilitate the camp. Based out of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Joseph helps with STEM summer academies at both Quantico and Dahlgren, as well as other school-year activities.
His goal is not to push all the students into a STEM career. He only wants them to be aware of their opportunities through summer academies and school-year activities.
“If you don’t know about it, you can’t do it,” Joseph said. “We just want to show them the possibilities. If they want to do something STEM-related, great. If it’s not for them, that’s fine. At least they have the choice.
“Having these kids spend 40 full hours with an engineer makes a huge impact,” he said. “This time with technical experts is great for them.”
It is great for the experts, too.
“It has been refreshing to help people start to think critically,” said Hovis, who works for Program Manager Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command, Control and Communications. “And I liked this week because it was so different from what I do on a day-to-day basis.”