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Marine Corps marvels minds during largest US STEM festival

By Mathuel Browne, Office of Public Affairs and Communications | Marine Corps Systems Command | April 27, 2016


Science was on the minds of attendees of the fourth USA Science and Engineering Festival April 14-17 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

As the largest science festival in the U.S., the event features nationwide contests and school programs to advance and inspire science, technology, engineering and math education in the next generation of scientists and engineers. This marked Marine Corps Systems Command’s second year participating in the festival as part of an ongoing effort to partner with other government agencies, academic institutions and private industry to improve STEM education in the United States.  

“In partnership with the Office of Naval Research, the Marine Corps wanted to come inform students and adults alike about the science and engineering that goes into developing Marine systems and equipment,” said Mike Ferraro, engineering competency manager for Systems Engineering, Interoperability, Architectures and Technology, or SIAT, at MCSC. “We incorporate STEM education by discussing how each item works.”

As Ferraro spoke, a group of students gathered around a dog-like robot designed by Jack Ware, an engineer in SIAT. The robot opens its mouth and reaches out for a treat when it senses hand motion.

“The robot is so scary at first,” said Sophia, an elementary school student from Takoma Park, Maryland. “It’s like he wants to bite my hand!”

Community outreach events like the science festival offer MCSC experts a chance to engage students and build their STEM exposure with hands-on learning activities that incorporate military-relevant content.

 “I really like how the conference is interactive, and you can actually touch stuff,” an Arlington Elementary School student said.  

At the MCSC booth, one boy counted aloud, “zero, one, two…BOOM!”  while looking through the Medium Range Thermal Bi-oculars at silhouettes of passersby. The MRTB allows unit leaders to locate targets in all lighting conditions, including total darkness and at times when vision is obstructed by smoke, fog or sandstorms up to one mile away.

MCSC engineers rely on events like the USA Science and Engineering Festival to inspire youth to pursue careers in STEM as well as educate them about the Marine Corps mission.

“The kids really love touching and trying the gear on,” said Brian Corner, research anthropologist with MCSC’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team. “Testing out what we have helps the kids understand what Marines use each day. It also integrates human science with technology so they can understand the connection.”