Reprinted with permission
By Daniel Schaub, NAWCTSD

The Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWCTSD) “Team Orlando” Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Outreach program has been making strides in providing STEM-related education and mentoring since it was first conceived in 2019. According to Emily Sherkow, who coordinates many of the program’s actions, Fiscal Year ’20 made way for 18 special events. With the help of 78 employees’ participation, over 12,000 students have been impacted by this program.

Among the students impacted by the Team Orlando STEM Outreach program, “Title 1” schools have shown great improvement thanks to the efforts of teachers and faculty who collaborated with Team Orlando’s volunteers.

One of these schools is Hungerford Elementary in Eatonville, Florida. Hungerford has grown extensively by creating the first elementary STEM program for aviation in Central Florida. This includes a dedicated classroom for their aviation lab with desktop simulators, VR with Lockheed Martin software, and a STEM pilot curriculum program. By January 2020, there were 40 students being taught in this lab three days a week.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Sherkow assures volunteers the goal of increasing the STEM Outreach program’s presence is attainable. “Virtual presence is not going away anytime soon . . . There is an increase in hybrid events, which allow in-person and virtual outreach.”

This includes virtual science fairs, where volunteers may serve as judges. Virtual Team Orlando also has a robotics team which uses LEGOs as a learning tool for students. Webinars take place through a dedicated platform called STEMconnect.

Along with a focus on underrepresented schools, the Team Orlando STEM Outreach program focuses on women in STEM. “We have a shared interest with focusing on women in STEM,” Sherkow says. “There are webinars which feature DoD staff from active duty and civilian personnel.”

According to Sherkow, volunteers are not required to work in a STEM career to participate, and all Department of Defense employees in Orlando employees are encouraged to help. She is optimistic continuing forward and welcomes the interest of DoD employees. “We should continue to see funding. I encourage anyone, if they have any interest whatsoever, to help out. If you want to give back to your community on behalf of DoD, we want you!”

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