West Point, Annapolis come together through STEM

By The Center for Leadership and Diversity in STEM Date: Thursday, Feb 24, 2022 Time: 17:24 EST
1 / 3

U.S. Military Academy cadets and U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen met up on a different field of friendly strife Feb. 5 for a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics competition. Lt. Col. Andrew Lee, Department of Mathematical Sciences and Center for Leadership and Diversity in STEM (CLD-STEM) director, generated the idea earlier in the academic year for an annual STEM competition with Navy. 

The Naval Academy’s STEM Center immediately gravitated to the idea and agreed to host the inaugural Army-Navy High School Student STEM Day.

“The intent is to set conditions for leadership and mentorship to occur through the lens of STEM outreach,” Lee said. “CLD-STEM has executed these outreach events for years. The recipe to success is always near-peer mentors and competitions.” 

Cadets embody two traits that make them particularly effective in STEM outreach: they naturally bridge the generational gap as accessible young mentors, and they embody empathy, compassion and success in STEM disciplines and life skills.

The mission of the CLD-STEM is to inspire, attract and retain underrepresented populations in STEM fields. Since its founding, the center has reached more than 5,000 middle and high school students representing nearly every state through mobile workshops and STEM summer camps. CLD-STEM’s efforts directly align with the Department of Defense (DOD) STEM Strategic Plan goals inspiring, attracting and advancing STEM careers. 

Thirty-two high school students from Maryland and Virginia attended this competitive engineering event at Annapolis, Maryland, led by near-peer cadets and midshipmen. 

USNA midshipmen Andreas Casillas, Adan Valdez, Lian Dunlevy, Ella Vath and Maia Vath led 16 students on the Navy team, and USMA cadets Class of 2025 Cadet Cynthia Sun, Class of 2025 Cadet Caleb Peterson, Class of 2023 Cadet Keno Deary and Class of 2023 Cadet Dhyuti Gopalakrishna led 16 students on the Army team.

The USNA team was advised by STEM and academic faculty members Joe McGettigan, Mark Murray, Lt. Cmdr. Melissa Szurovy and Christine Maceo, while the USMA team was advised by Lee (Department of Mathematical Sciences) and Pratheek Manjunath (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science). Army Research Lab STEM Outreach Coordinator Jaime Wilson also attended the event. 

The cadets and midshipmen kicked off the event by teaching the students the Army and Navy spirit cheers: the “Goat is Old and Gnarlyˮ for Navy and the “Rocketˮ for Army. 

Students then participated in a STEM curriculum that included website design, electric circuits and soldering, robotics coding, fluid dynamics and rocket design, structures and triangles, and bridge building. 

Throughout the day, cadets and midshipmen introduced each STEM module and guided the students through each activity. 

During the lunch period, cadets and midshipmen participated in a panel discussion to discuss their individual paths toward STEM fields. 

Three culminating competitive events ultimately determined the winning team: a robotic program race using Spheros, rocket target hits, and a bridge strength competition, measured by a crusher machine.  

The Army team won two out of the three competitions (Robots and Rockets) and was awarded the Army-Navy STEM Commander-in-Chief trophy designed by the USNA STEM office. The trophy made the trip back to West Point where it will be housed until next year. 

West Point’s CLD-STEM will be hosting next year’s competition with students mostly from the New York area. 

Peterson commented on his experience at the event, “As a plebe, this was my first leadership opportunity at USMA and I was blessed to do it with an amazing group of faculty and cadets, while beating Navy in the process. I look forward to many more Army wins in the future of this competition.” 

Deary reflected on the event, “As a Cyber Science: Machine Learning major, I gained a lot of STEM skills learning from officers and industry experts at USMA. It felt great to pay my knowledge forward and introduce some key technical skills to the high school students who will lead this nation’s future.”

“Every student that attended this event were not only inspired toward STEM careers, but they had genuine fun interacting with peers and peer-mentors,” Lee said. “Most importantly, we won another Army-Navy event, which we always take seriously.”

Navy recently posted an article on their News Center page on the event at https://www.usna.edu/NewsCenter/sites/STEM/2021/2022-02-05-army-navy.php. More information about USMA’s CLD-STEM can be found at https://www.westpoint.edu/centers-and-research/center-for-leadership-an….