The Department of Defense’s Office of Industrial Base Policy (IBP) participated in X-STEM NOVA on October 26, 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. X-STEM, which is part of USA Science & Engineering Festival’s bi-annual science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) event series, promotes STEM careers to students of all ages across America.
The event in Chantilly was billed as the largest STEM recruiting event in the National Capital Region, bringing together nearly 2,500 6th grade through high school students from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. IBP’s participation was spearheaded by members of its Innovation Capability and Modernization (ICAM) office who worked closely with event organizers to secure the inclusion of performers that lead four National Imperative for Industrial Skills (NIIS or “Skills Imperative”) projects.
The DoD’s NIIS workforce initiative is funded under ICAM’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program. It aims to reignite U.S. industrial modernization by strengthening key segments of the industrial skills workforce development ecosystem. To date, ICAM has invested over $150 million across 16 NIIS projects to catalyze successful workforce ecosystems and training programs. Participating NIIS performers at X-STEM NOVA included the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation [IACMI], Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Vermont Technical College (VTC), and RD Solutions.
The ICAM team and their NIIS performers helped construct an interactive workshop for the students and discussed their roles in helping America develop skilled workers to meet the nation’s current and future manufacturing needs. Students experienced engineering design and manufacturing with the goal of sparking an interest in meaningful manufacturing careers that protect our economic and national security interests. “Seeing the enthusiasm of the students when confronting a challenge that they had to solve together reinforced the importance of the work we’re doing through the IBAS Program” said ICAM Director, Ms. Adele Ratcliff.
X-STEM participants worked in teams to prototype, test, and manufacture model planes to overcome a scenario-based real-world problem. “Helping students think about careers mostly starts with an experience… getting their hands busy and connecting their ideas with a tangible outcome to a problem,” said Texas A&M’s Spark! Director, Shelly Tornquist. “When students are allowed to use their math and science skills to solve a problem, they then are open to what is next.” Mr. Barry Hulce, Vermont Manufacturing Collaborative’s Executive Director said, “Participating in X-Stem gave VTC a great opportunity to work closely with our IBAS partners and further our collaborative relationship. Watching the young learners engage in hands-on problem solving activities highlighted their thirst for knowledge and eagerness to overcome manufacturing challenges.”
Following the interactive activity, students learned more about IACMI’s America’s Cutting Edge project providing online and in-person machine tool training, as well as ‘Project MFG’ - an exciting machine tool and welding-based competition designed to elevate the next generation of highly skilled trade professionals. Project MFG Director Mr. Ray Dick stated, “X-STEM provided us with an outstanding opportunity to reach young people from across the NOVA region. These types of discovery events help open the minds of these students to the possibilities that careers in manufacturing can provide while demonstrating the importance of STEM literacy in a fun, engaging, and memorable way."
The ICAM office and its extensive national network of NIIS performers continue to explore for opportunities to engage future manufacturers across America. As Joannie Harmon, IACMI’s Director of Workforce Development proclaimed, “The students’ earnest efforts, smiles, and cheering proved that enthusiastically engaging them with real-world maker challenges is ideal for opening their eyes to the job opportunities awaiting them in manufacturing.”
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