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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Waipahu students get engineering intro

Katie Vanes
Reader Submitted

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

(April 17) Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Engineer Rebecca Dumlao creates a "brush bot" with a student at "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day" at Waipahu Intermediate School.

U.S. Navy photo by Katie Vanes

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Pearl Harbor Shipyard Volunteers

Make Engineering Fun for Students

By Katie Vanes

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii More than 250 middle school students learned about engineering careers from 18 Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) volunteers at "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day" April 17 at Waipahu Intermediate School. PHNSY & IMF engineers and pipefitters used superheroes and imaginative teaching techniques to stimulate students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

As the largest employer of engineers in Hawaii with nearly 600 on the payroll, PHNSY & IMF supports STEM outreach events to foster an early interest in one of the most attainable, well-paying careers in Hawaii.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day provided an in-depth introduction to the field of engineering featuring hands-on activities for students that encouraged creativity, innovation and real-world application of engineering principles. The event, hosted by the University of Hawaii Manoa chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), was held on Oahu for the first time.

"Kids had the opportunity to meet and talk to Shipyard engineers about their school and professional experience," said Constance Collins of the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department, who was one of the main

PHNSY & IMF coordinators for the event. "They told the kids about the importance of the Shipyard's mission of keeping the Navy's ships 'Fit to Fight,' as well as the importance of getting an education."

Shipyarders and SWE members taught students how to use chemical reactions to create "gak" a solid gooey substance similar to Play-Doh, build structurally sound bridges out of newspaper and craft "brush bots" from electronic toothbrushes.

"We needed to change the way we normally demonstrate nondestructive testing techniques to match the age group, which was challenging in the beginning," said Richard Carey, the metal inspector supervisor from the Nondestructive Testing Department.

Carey explained that the PHNSY & IMF employees demonstrated several types of testing performed at the Shipyard and related naval engineering concepts to tangible applications that middle school-age students could comprehend. Relating naval technology to comic heroes and animal life were effective strategies at gaining the students' full attention.

"To illustrate the magnetic particle technique that detects cracks in ferromagnetic materials, the Shipyard demonstrator was nicknamed 'Mr. Magneto' (referencing the science fiction film X-Men), and that seemed to get their attention," said Carey. "The students were interested in how they could not see the crack in the steel until the magnet was turned on.

"We related ultrasonic testing of the sonar to how animals in the ocean use to communicate and find food, and taught them how whales and dolphins find other animals using sound waves that travel through water. The students also found it interesting that the X-ray machine used in radiography testing had the power to penetrate the skin of a rhinoceros," said Carey.

Shipyard Testing Division Engineer Stephanie Srun highlighted another activity at the event. "Taking an envelope full of parts and turning the parts into an operating solar car shows students that they have the power to create great things and solve problems," she said. "The teachers are very supportive, and we hope they and the students take their excitement and curiosity back to the classroom and their daily lives."

PHNSY & IMF is a full-service naval shipyard and regional maintenance center for the Navy's surface ships and submarines. It is a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). The largest of the Navy's systems commands, NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains naval ships, submarines and their combat systems.

Strategically located in the mid-Pacific, PHNSY & IMF is about a week's "steam time" closer to potential major regional contingencies in East Asia than sites on the West Coast.

PHNSY & IMF is the largest industrial employer in the state of Hawaii, with a combined civilian and military workforce of more than 4,700 and an annual operating budget of about $687 million. For more information about PHNSY & IMF, visit the Shipyard's Web site at http://www.navsea.navy.mil/shipyards/pearl/default.aspx.