SPAWAR Employee Recognized as Top STEM Advocate
CHARLESTON, S.C. (NNS) -- Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic's Shanda Johnson, director of the command's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach program, was recently honored by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering with the STEM advocate of the quarter award.
Johnson coordinates and leads outreach efforts for SSC Atlantic's Charleston, New Orleans and Tidewater sites. Over the last five years she has developed a cadre of more than 300 SSC Atlantic volunteers supporting extended outreach activities to more than 30,000 students.
In fiscal year 2016 alone, Johnson enabled 57 "For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology" (FIRST) robotics teams with more than 800 students and 100 mentors. She interacts with parents, educators and students, ensuring students are inspired and parents are informed of opportunities for children to pursue STEM careers. Last season, robotics competitions in South Carolina reached more than 5,000 parents, students, educators, as well as family and community members.
Johnson emphasizes cybersecurity in SSC Atlantic's STEM outreach program and helped to establish week-long, hands on, interactive cyber camps at all three SSC Atlantic locations, educating more than 200 students annually. SSC Atlantic's Charleston location also hosts the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition, an intense cyber network "attack and defend" competition. For the past four years, this two-day weekend event has impacted more than 200 high school and college students each year. Additional activities include forensic challenges, curriculum development, Information Technology (IT) Shadow Day, student/teacher shadow opportunities, career fairs, DimensionU video game demonstrations, math and science nights, and speaking engagements.
As an outreach champion, Johnson has spearheaded programs which provide opportunities to minority, disadvantaged and underserved community students, such as Girls Day Out, hosted in Charleston for five years and recently expanded to Hampton Roads and New Orleans. This program has touched and influenced more than 500 rising 8th and 9th grade girls and their parents, encouraging, influencing and educating them on STEM careers.
Johnson has also collaborated with colleges, universities, local businesses and the mayor's office to sponsor a "My Brother's Keeper" weekend summer camp and initiate a "My Brother's Keeper" coalition in Charleston. Johnson ensures SSC Atlantic takes advantage of the Navy's Science Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP), Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program (NREIP) and Summer Faculty Research Program (SFRP), ensuring selectees are from diverse backgrounds and that students gain exposure and experience in STEM careers.
Johnson's devotion to increasing technical opportunities for students is both a personal and professional endeavor. According to Mary J. Miller, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, SSC Atlantic and the Navy have already gained a return of their investment by hiring new professionals who were previous participants in the STEM outreach program.
"It is clear that she has gone above and beyond in her dedication to STEM outreach and advocacy on behalf of the Department of Defense," said Miller. "She is truly deserving of this honor."