USA: DoN, City of Chicago Team Up for Groundbreaking Education

The Department of the Navy (DoN) and City of Chicago this month kicked off a unique collaboration to give high school and community college students an intense, hands-on experience in naval-relevant science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Critical MASS (Midwest Association for Science and Service) is a five-year, $2 million investment that will bring enrichment programs to seven Chicago high schools, including five early college institutions driven by STEM curricula. It will serve as a national model for integrating new technologies into STEM education.

The program will feature competitions, field trips and mentoring opportunities. Officials will rely on several naval STEM programs and projects—including the Technovation Challenge, SeaPerch, Gooru and Sally Ride Science—to enhance the curriculum, which will cover everything from aero and hydrodynamics to solid-state electrical components and nuclear reactions.

“Our Navy needs engineers, naval architects and weapons developers,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder. “More than half of our science and engineering professionals will be eligible for retirement by 2020, so we have to develop these important skills in the generation going through high school right now.”

Klunder leads the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which is the DoN’s executive agent for STEM-related initiatives. The collaboration with Chicago Public Schools will provide STEM enrichment programs that span ninth grade to community college, both during the academic school year and the summer.

“President Obama called on the nation to provide our children with the education and skills they need to excel in school and the careers of tomorrow,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “By partnering with the Department of the Navy, we are taking a huge step towards this goal, building upon our students’ science, technology and math skills and supporting them with real-world experiences that open the doors to future career options.”

Critical MASS began the week of July 15 with its initial summer camp and a Curriculum Day, which brought together Navy experts, curriculum designers, representatives from the mayor of Chicago’s office, school administrators, teachers and City Colleges of Chicago faculty members for a discussion of programming opportunities in both after-school and in-class environments.

“When you have this many high-powered leaders in one room, you run the risk of each one pushing a different agenda,” said Cmdr. Joseph Cohn, ONR’s deputy director of research for STEM. “But our agenda was a common one—improving the quality of STEM education today, to secure the future for the Navy, Marine Corps and our nation.”

The goals of the five-year program call for increasing:
• interest in, and relevance of, STEM learning in Chicago-area high schools
• STEM competency in Chicago high schools
• numbers of academically prepared students entering community colleges and four-year institutions in STEM fields
• competitiveness and diversity of students applying for admission to military service academies or ROTC programs
• awareness and interest in STEM career options with the DoN
• women and minority participation in STEM.

“The hope is that the model set forth in Chicago will be replicated by cities across the nation,” Cohn said.

Press Release, July 30, 2013