With a morning dew still covering the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) campus, school buses packed with students from across the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley, and as far away as Sacramento, began rolling onto campus for the university’s annual Discover NPS Day, Oct. 25.
Throughout the day, more than 2,200 students, along with their teacher and parent chaperones, and denizens of the Monterey region, flooded the campus and its 40 interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) venues aimed at allowing students to see, touch, build and to be inspired as the next generation of innovators.
“We are very fortunate to be able to have this opportunity to connect with our community and show them how NPS is deeply embedded and grateful to be a part of it,” said Laurel Minik, NPS Director of Institutional Advancement, and one of the Discover NPS day coordinators. “[The students] get to come here and have hands-on experiences with our military students and faculty making real-world connections. Allowing the kids to have a positive learning experience and getting an understanding what happens behind the gate, is pure goodness.”
Included in the university’s strategic plan is an intention to make deeper connections with the community. Discover NPS Day is a key component of that, demonstrating to students, teachers and parents alike how NPS’ military students and world-class faculty use the STEM fields for graduate education and research, and ultimately have direct and real-world applications in national defense.
“We want to open the gates to the public, and let them see what goes on behind the fence line here at NPS,” echoed Navy Capt. Edward McCabe, NPS Air Warfare Chair, and Discover NPS Day Chair. “We work and live in this community, so we hope to shine a bright light on what we do here for the public to build that trusting relationship today and into the future.”
Groups of 15-20 students, ranging from third grade through high school, were paired with an NPS student ambassador to lead them across campus into the various STEM venues. Students explored the realm of space seeing actual spacecraft components; hacked Wi-Fi networks at the cyber activities venue; launched rockets; battled with ant-weight robots during the Battle Bot Competition; unlocked the mysteries behind electricity, magnetism and light manipulation; dined in the Grand Ballroom of the historic Hotel Del Monte; and joined Dumbledore’s Army to defeat the Death Eaters in a Harry-Potter themed social network analysis exercise, just to mention a few.
“It’s really good for the students to be here making real world connections, and seeing opportunities that are open to them in the future,” said fifth grade teacher Cristina Torres, from George C. Marshall Elementary in Seaside, Calif. “Getting to be hands-on really brought out their excitement and opened up their curiosity.”
While the event was primarily focused on STEM activities, the scope of the day actually represented a more holistic approach to all the university teaches by including venues from the school’s social science and national security affairs departments. Venues featured from these areas included lectures about vital U.S. national security interests across a global picture, from a collaborative and international perspective with lectures about the Africa, Middle East, Eurasia, East Asia, and Latin American regions.
“Our goal is to encourage our greatest assets, our children, to challenge themselves intellectually and strive for academic excellence as they continue their educational journey,” said McCabe.
Parallel to the student-focused events, NPS hosted community and business leaders and collaborators from around the Peninsula providing a behind-the-scenes VIP experience inside NPS. University administrators showcased to these leaders the research and some of the strategic undertakings of NPS students and faculty, such as augmented and virtual reality systems, as well as hypersonic flight at NPS’ rocket lab, all which illustrated how NPS accomplishes its unique mission of defense-focused graduate education.
“By inviting the community onto our campus and placing our fantastic faculty, students and research on display, we will increase community awareness and sense of ownership, as well as shared values,” claimed McCabe. “We hope to clearly demonstrate our contributions not just to the community, but to the nation.”