Each year, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) hosts the International RoboSub competition in our acoustic research pool in San Diego. The International RoboSub competition is sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Office of Naval Research. This year I toured this very intense competition with my son and had an opportunity to see it through his eyes.
College teams from around the world test their autonomous underwater vehicles by running them through an underwater navigation course while accomplishing various demanding tasks along the way, like dropping a marker in a box or passing through different elevated gates. The vehicles varied in size and complexity, from basic to very advanced, but one thing that was common was the excitement and enthusiasm of the participants as they prepared for their robot’s turn in the pool.
The competition reinforced for me the value of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach. We’re facing a real challenge in our country to produce the number of graduates with technical degrees we need to remain competitive in the coming years. Events like RoboSub are fun and inspire our kids.
The part I enjoyed the most was watching teams help each other through the technical challenges. It reminded me of how teamwork is so essential in science and engineering. Success in these fields is rarely a solo effort, but usually the result of a strong team working together to solve a problem.
Trying to convince your average teenagers they should pursue a STEM career field can be challenging. At the individual level, SPAWAR’s STEM professionals make a real difference by getting out into our local schools and communities. STEM professionals need to inspire, mentor and be the role model for our nation’s young people so they can see there are fun, challenging and rewarding careers waiting for those who put in the effort to excel with a STEM education.
If you’re a student, STEM can be your ticket to success. If you’re already working in the field, ask yourself, “How can I help the next generation succeed and take over where I leave off?” Science and engineering is more than solving technical challenges, it’s igniting that spark of innovation and discovery that has made our nation great. It is critical that we sow the seeds of STEM inspiration in order to secure our nation’s future.