Fleet Week San Diego is an annual event created by community and business leaders to honor and celebrate the men and women of the military and maintain the vision of San Diego as a patriotic, pro-military city.
Fleet Week’s Innovation Zone hosted a combination of new and emerging technologies and interactive displays geared to encourage students, service members and their families to participate in STEM education programs.
NAVWAR Commander Rear Adm. Christian Becker kicked off the event, highlighting the importance of inspiring innovation and encouraging critical thinking in today’s youth, the problem solvers of the future.
“In today’s Great Power Competition we will be met with some of the most difficult challenges of our nation’s history,” said Becker. “Our youth will be central to solving tomorrow’s problems. It is our duty to inspire students to take an interest in STEM, as it is vital to keeping pace with the rapid technological advances happening all around us. Innovation is essential to the future of our Navy and our nation.”
During the event, NAVWAR and Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific volunteers facilitated hands-on discovery by providing a variety of STEM activities ranging from robotics to sequencing and coding to virtual reality. Each demonstration focused on learning by doing as students explored and experimented with each concept.
“Our outreach program focuses on increasing kids’ interest and excitement in STEM from an early age through fun, game-like, hands-on experiences,” said Yolanda Tanner, NAVWAR STEM federal action officer and NIWC Pacific internship and fellowship program manager. “Events like Fleet Week allow us the opportunity to make a direct and significant impact on local students and the community, motivating our future workforce to pursue an education in STEM.”
NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific interactive demonstrations included ozobots, binary bracelets, cipher wheels and, the most popular, a virtual reality (VR) system.
Ozobots are miniature robots designed for students to experience coding by color computing. With black, red, blue and green markers, students experiment with color sequences, which result in actions performed by the ozobot. Students were able to create their own sequence of actions and learn the fundamentals of computing while having fun.
The binary bracelet provided an interactive way to familiarize students with how computing characters are translated by devices. Colored beads were used to represent a binary byte with the color of the bit representing a one or a zero. Using the byte sequence representing the alphabet, students created their own bracelet based on the first and last letter of their name.
The cipher wheel is an encoding and decoding activity based on the fundamentals of secret messages. As one of the earliest known ciphers, the Caesar cipher requires that the persons creating and receiving the messages know the key to encrypt and decrypt the message. During this activity, students manipulated a two-way cipher disk to crack a code and reveal a secret phrase.
The VR system gave students the opportunity to step into and interact with a virtual environment using an Oculus headset and hand controllers. The system demonstrated how the Fleet uses cutting-edge VR technology for training, operations, prototyping and maintenance while remaining out of harm’s way.
In addition to Fleet Week and in support of the next generation of STEM professionals, NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific will continue to participate in a variety of K-12 education outreach events including classroom demonstrations and presentations, local, national and international robotics competitions, community events, career fairs, science festivals, internships, mentorship opportunities, and more.