News: SPAWAR hosts Federal IT Shadow Day for high tech high school students
Story by Tina Stillions
SAN DIEGO - Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) hosted a federal Information Technology (IT) Shadow Day for local area High Tech High School students at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific campus March 8.
IT Shadow Day is a Department of Defense (DOD) initiative designed to provide high school students with a unique opportunity to observe the federal work environment, shadow professionals in their respective fields and learn what it takes to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the government.
SPAWAR Commander Rear Adm. Patrick Brady spoke to the students and encouraged them to pursue STEM careers. He stressed the importance and value to the United States in remaining competitive and innovative in the IT field.
“Hopefully today you’ll make that connection that it’s important for our nation that you get a technical degree. Those cool things you saw today require those technical degrees,” said Brady. “There are programs available that can help pay for your college educations. So set yourself up for success.”
Students from Point Loma and Chula Vista High Tech High School campuses participated in the Shadow Day event, which also coincided with International Women’s Day during Women’s History Month. Students, including three young women from local area campuses, toured SPAWAR’s photonics laboratory, high performance computing visualization center, stopped by the unmanned systems branch and had the opportunity to get hands on experience operating some of SPAWAR’s robotics systems. The students learned about the education and skills required to succeed in STEM careers from the vantage point of the scientists and engineers they interacted with throughout the day’s event.
During a stop at the Navigation Systems Research and Development Branch, students learned about superconducting –based radio frequency technologies under development in the Center for Exploitation for Radio Frequency (CERF) lab from Anna Leese de Escobar who leads the CERF efforts for SPAWAR. Escobar also stressed the importance of encouraging young woman to pursue STEM careers.
“I think it’s really important to do everything we can to encourage as many young people as possible, especially young women,” said de Escobar. “That usually happens at the junior high school level. If we hook them at an early age, we can hopefully influence their decision to pursue STEM careers.”
The number of American students pursuing careers in math and science has steadily declined in recent years. Those numbers are even smaller for women pursuing advanced science degrees. Students who do go into STEM career fields are in higher demand from industry, academia and government. Events like the IT Shadow Day expose a diverse cross section of students to government opportunities to pursue after college.
Darlene Montesano, a student from the High Tech High Point Loma campus, said the IT Shadow Day was a great opportunity, especially for girls.
“I have a better understanding of what technology can do for society. I think it can solve a lot of the world’s problems,” said Montesano. “IT Shadow Days has given me a broader idea of what I can do outside high school, because I’ve been able to see some real world applications today.”
Over a lunch discussion, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific Commanding Officer Capt. Joe Beel had all SPAWAR employees present during his talk stand up and give a brief description of their background and education to make a point about the value and importance of higher education, especially in science and technology.
“We’re going to show you the opportunities today that are available with the government, either as a civilian or in uniform,” said Beel. “I want to hear you say that you attended an IT Shadow Day, and liked it so much, that you want to come back and work for SPAWAR.”
IT Shadow Day at SPAWAR is part of a DOD-wide initiative designed to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM. As the Navy's Information Dominance Systems Command, SPAWAR participates regularly in events and programs such as IT Shadow Day with a goal of inspiring and preparing young men and women for STEM careers with the federal government.
For more news from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/spawar/.