NAVFAC Marianas Engineers partner with SAME Guam Post; hosted first STEM Camp on island

by Catherine Cruz Norton

MANGILAO, Guam - Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas and the Society of Military Engineers (SAME) Guam Post hosted their first science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Camp, July 8.

“These young students represent our future,” said NAVFAC Marianas Commanding Officer Capt. Stephanie Jones, who holds a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering. “The STEM Camp is an excellent opportunity for us to give back to the community, to share our experiences and impart knowledge.”

The camp, which was held at the University of Guam (UOG), featured fun and educational demonstrations and activities. NAVFAC Marianas engineers and professional engineers from private-sector firms facilitated STEM-learning with nearly 70 students in grades five through eight in attendance.

Students were divided into eight “squads” and rotated through 75-minute sessions that included computer coding, photovoltaics, architecture, water filtration, “slime” making, water-bottle rocket making (and launching), drinking-straw bridge building and earthquake structures.

“The kids in our group got to mix materials to make putty, build a bridge out of straws, learn how to use architectural scale, make measurements and draw to scale, and work on computer codes,” said NAVFAC Marianas Chief Engineer Arlene Aromin, who volunteered as a camp mentor. “It was amazing to see the kids' eyes light up when they saw the end product of each activity. I was also very impressed with the high level of questions, reasoning and responses from these fifth- and sixth-graders.”

Squads were led by active-duty CEC officers and activity sessions were headed by experts from the military, civilian engineers and architects, and UOG pre-engineering students. According to organizers, computer coding seemed to be the most popular session for fifth- and sixth-graders, while the water bottle rocket challenge was most popular among the seventh- and eighth-graders.

“I enjoy working with kids especially on STEM,” said Aromin. “The earlier we introduce our children to STEM, the more likely they will be interested to pursue STEM in their future careers. After all, these children will be our future engineers and architects.”

Altogether there were 46 volunteers, 17 of whom were active-duty Navy personnel.

“I volunteered because it provides an opportunity to give back what has been given to me, and it ties to things that I am passionate about, like STEM,” said Lt. Hadi Mirsadeghi, assistant public works officer for Naval Base Guam and a camp squad leader. “Events like this promote self- growth and strengthen our community relations.” Mirsadeghi said he approached each activity with energy and enthusiasm. “I try to relate lessons and projects to children's interests and positive experiences. I want to create an atmosphere of fun where kids can learn to work in teams, make discoveries, be inspired and understand why science is important.”

Organizers said they plan to make the camp an annual multi-day event with their goal to establish long-term mentorships and to pique students’ interest in engineering and other STEM-related professions.

“The SAME Guam Post is committed to inspiring the potential of the nation’s and island’s youth with the leadership skills, motivation and technical competence to be future leaders of our nation and island,” said retired Navy Capt. Noel Enriquez, camp director and operations manager Asia Pacific for Stanley Consultants Inc. “The Guam Post established the STEM Camp to achieve this end.”

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