US Navy Attends Engineering Conference in Lihue, Kaui, Hawaii

US Navy Attends Engineering Conference in Lihue, Kaui, Hawaii

The commander of Navy Region Hawaii discussed diversity at the 2012 Engineering Deans Institute (EDI) “Engineering: Transcending Boundaries” conference April 17, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii.

The annual conference is sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and Peter Crouch, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaii. The diversity panel consisted of five panelists from education institutions, government and non-profit agencies.

According to the Office of Naval Research, students’ declining interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers could adversely affect future operations and capabilities of the military, posing a challenge to the country’s economic health and national defense.

Engineering conferences, such as this one, help identify the risks of a lack of diversity and the solutions to overcome it.

I’m here because this gives me an opportunity to reinforce the Navy’s commitment to diversity, education, community and technology to a very robust and capable workforce that can develop, operate and maintain our very technically advanced platforms. At the highest levels – from the commander-in-chief to the chief of naval operations – we’ve made that commitment, not only in word, but in action,” said Rear Adm. Frank Ponds, commander, Navy Region Hawaii. “For the region of Hawaii, this is the gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, and we must understand the critical role we (the Navy) must play in the security and stability of the region. Our people… our most valuable resource… assures us of success.”

The annual ASEE EDI conference provided an opportunity for engineering deans, leaders and professionals to gather and discuss crucial issues facing their schools, colleges and professions. For three days, a single-stream program fosters dialogue between deans, industry leaders and those in important roles in research and government. Deans share best practices, learn about career prospects for their graduates and develop a voice for engineering education and the role of engineering in society.

“The world is becoming increasingly technological. So, all persons in the world and the U.S., need to be equipped with enhanced technological literacy to deal with the many decisions that they will need to take and to appreciate the decisions that politicians are taking on their behalf. STEM education is therefore also becoming increasingly more important for the future workforce,” said Crouch.

According to Doug Goering, dean of Engineering and Mines, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in order to fix the problems with diversity in engineering students, mentors and educators need to break cultural barriers for incoming students. This starts at the K-12 levels through summer programs that engage students in hands-on activities, such as computer builds as well as providing a strong emphasis to academic achievement.

Dr. Michael Kassner, director, Office of Research (Discovery and Invention) Office of Naval Research was one of the panelists at the diversity session. According to Kassner about 30 percent of American high school graduates are white while 80 percent of engineering graduates in college are white, demonstrating an obvious disparity in the socio-economic and socio-geographic make-up of the engineering workforce in today’s society.

“We need diversity of not just ethnicity or gender, we need diversity of perspective. The Navy is committed to the diversity of intelligent thought,” said Ponds. According to Kassner, ONR has 215 programs in place supporting the Navy’s role in STEM, involving 31 commands, 75,000 students and all 50 states.

“The engineering workforce in the military is aging fast. So the military needs to recruit many more engineers. As noted above this means that we need to encourage more minority and women students to enter engineering education,” said Crouch.

Naval Today Staff , April 20, 2012; Image: asee