ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Office of Naval Research (ONR) earned accolades as a national "pacesetter" during an Oct. 8 ceremony for its efforts to promote education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
ONR's executive director, Dr. Walter F. Jones, accepted the ASM Materials Education Foundation's 2012 Pacesetter Award at a leadership luncheon at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. The recognition highlights the Navy's aggressive efforts to address a critical shortage in the science and engineering workforce.
"This award is further proof that the Navy is making important contributions to strengthen America's competitive edge and ensure that a healthy talent pool is in place to support future naval technical needs," Jones said.
Among its efforts to boost STEM education, ONR has funded a series of summer camps along the Gulf Coast to train middle and high school teachers in physics and materials science, electronic engineering, chemistry and polymer science. The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Stennis Space Center detachment worked with the foundation to organize the program, which could expand to other parts of the country as the Navy seeks to double its STEM investments by fiscal year 2015.
"We are grateful to ONR for supporting our initiative to train high school STEM teachers through the ASM Materials Camp program. Teachers learned proven hands-on activities and experiments that they can easily incorporate in their existing lesson plans ... experiments that are proven to engage students in STEM," said Stephen Copley, chair of the ASM Materials Education Foundation Board. "These teachers had little or no prior knowledge or contact with members of the U.S. Navy, and they developed increased understanding of the Navy mission and the future workforce requirements of ONR and the Navy."
The Navy's STEM Coordination Office, operated out of and managed by ONR, oversees efforts that stretch across several commands and reach thousands of participants each year across the country through an array of competitions, internships and research fellowships.
ONR leadership has focused efforts on freshman and sophomore STEM retention in college, hands-on learning programs in urban and rural middle schools, teacher training in naval-relevant fields of study and mission-critical graduate student and postdoctoral support. ONR in 2011 hosted the Naval STEM Forum, which emphasized a renewed focus on teacher training, including the ASM summer camps.
Dr. Bhakta B. Rath, associate director of research for materials science and component technology at NRL and member of the foundation board, nominated ONR for this year's award.
"ONR has made major contributions to national security as well as to the nation's educational system," Rath said. "It is the premiere institution within the Department of Defense to support STEM initiatives, and its contributions to science and engineering are too numerous to list."
The ASM Materials Education Foundation established the Pacesetter Award in 2009 to recognize organizations for support of volunteers and funding in the fields of materials, science and engineering education through the foundation. Previous recipients include Engineering Systems Inc., Sandia National Laboratories/Lockheed Martin Corp. and Battelle.
For more information on the Navy's STEM initiatives, visit www.STEM2stern.org. A roadmap of key STEM initiatives is available at www.onr.navy.mil/en/Education-Outreach/STEM-Strategy-2011-Navy.aspx.
ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.