March 22, 2012

NAWCWD encourages local students in science, math

More than 140 middle school girls spent the day at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) McLean Lab for the 11th annual Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Conference on March 10.

Rear Adm. Mat Winter, NAWCWD commander, kicked off the event and welcomed the girls from Kernville, Lone Pine, Inyokern and Ridgecrest schools.

“This is going to be the best learning you’ve ever had,” Winter told the girls. “There is nothing you can’t do; remember that.”

Rear Adm. (sel) CJ Jaynes, assistant commander of NAVAIR’s Logistics and Industrial Operations at Patuxent River, Md., was the guest speaker.

“An event like this gives young ladies a chance to see what’s open to them,” Jaynes said. “The hands-on experience here is an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s wonderful what China Lake is doing here with these young girls. I would like to see this event go Navy-wide.”

Jaynes spoke about the many opportunities for women with the Navy from being an aviator, an aviation maintenance officer, a chemist, a physicist, or an astronaut. She listed many firsts in women’s history including Elizabeth Blackwell becoming the first modern day woman doctor in the U.S. in 1949, Sally Ride as the first American woman sent into outer space in 1983, and highlighted 2011 as the time women first reported onboard naval missile submarines.

“Every single person in this room can be on that list,” Jaynes told the girls. “There’s a first that’s waiting for you.”

Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics is an international organization designed to nurture the interest of 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls in science and math courses to encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

EYH is hosted by the Ridgecrest Women of Math and Science Inc., and the Ridgecrest Elks Lodge. About 70 volunteers from NAWCWD and the community supported the event with demonstrations, presentations, and administrative coordination.

EYH attendees were able to participate in three out of the 16 hands-on workshops. Scientists and engineers from NAWCWD, and community professionals led workshops on archaeology, aerodynamics, veterinary medicine, non-Newtonian fluid, forensic science, electrical circuitry, basic chemistry practices, Navy construction, genetic research, robotics, encryption, marine biology and parachute design.

“That was the best thing ever,” said Tania Palmer, a Murray Middle School student, after participating in the “Blast Off!” workshop designed to explain aerodynamics using water rockets.

Traci Larson, of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services, gave a presentation on what it’s like to work for NCIS and the value of having females working in law enforcement.

Susie Raglin, a division head in the NAWCWD Systems Engineering Department and emcee for the EYH conference, said she was very pleased with how engaged the girls were throughout the day and wanted them to realize that science, technology, engineering and math can be fun.

“We need to do everything we can to remind young girls that they can accomplish anything they want to accomplish,” Raglin said.

Meghan Baronowski, a materials engineer working in the Michelson Lab, has worked at China Lake for almost nine years and has been an EYH workshop leader for the last eight years. This year, she led the “Don’t break the law” workshop and said she hoped to have opened the minds of more than a few of the participants to the math and science fields.

“I remember growing up and liking math and science but not knowing what I could do with it or what jobs I could get,” she said. “This event gives girls a chance to see what options are out there for them. Just because you are a girl, doesn’t mean you can’t like math and you can’t be good at it.”

Jaynes encouraged the girls to start thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. She reminded them that science and math could open doors to anything they want to do in the future.

“Every single one of you has an opportunity to make a difference in the world and change people’s lives,” Jaynes said. “The possibilities are endless. I challenge you to do your best.”

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