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Posted 2/18/2014

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By Nakeir Nobles
Jacksonville District


Jacksonville District continues to make strides in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, as employees hosted students from JEB Stuart Middle School’s First Lego® League (FLL) at the district’s headquarters office. The event provided a view of the STEM disciplines as they are used in Corps career fields.

Volunteers from Programs and Project Management Division and from Operations Division’s Emergency Operations, Invasive Species and Water Management Branches provided the students a bird’s eye view of how these sections of the district function.

Stuart’s First Lego® League (FLL) is a robotics program designed for students ages nine to 16. Students in the program use Legos® and a robot to construct an obstacle course for a given situation. They complete a project focusing on research and how the newfound information applies to their daily lives.

The school’s FLL coordinator, teacher Desirae Royal, has a vested interest in STEM education and felt it was important for the children to interact with Corps staff.

“Kids are competitive. I wanted to bring them here for a real-world experience of how STEM is incorporated in the real world,” Royal said.

The first stop in the Corps experience was the district’s emergency operations office. Met by emergency management specialists Aaron Stormant and Logan Wilkinson, the group was given a presentation of emergency management’s role in disaster preparation and recovery.

Emergency preparedness and response is primarily a state and local responsibility. However, in instances when the nature of the disaster exceeds the capabilities of local and state interests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may provide help to save human lives, prevent immediate human suffering or mitigate property damage.

The students are currently designing a robot that will assist with post natural disaster debris removal.

After their presentation, Stormant and Wilkinson were bombarded with answers to the natural disaster questions they posed to the group.

“When was the last time Jacksonville was hit by a hurricane,” Stormant asked the group. Answers varied from 1800 to present-day. The correct answer is 1964.

Seventh grader Kristina Lindt, a member of the school’s FLL program said, “We use all branches of STEM [in the program]. We use science to do the program, technology to program the robot, engineering to test the programs [used to build robot] and math for different rotations of the project.”

Lindt, who wants to be a teacher, says she will pursue a degree in math. “I love math and technology.”

Following the emergency management presentation, engineering division’s Tom Spencer talked about and displayed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). “Now you guys want to work for the Corps, right? It’s really a cool program to work with here.”

“That is cool,” echoed one of the students.

The district’s UAV program provides high resolution aerial imagery, which is a much higher resolution than traditional aerial photography. This technology has been used to detect infrastructure problems along levees and dikes. With the ability to hand-launch the UAV, the team can perform flights in very remote areas.

Royal says the interaction between the students and the district is an important step in their project completion. And working on the project together encompasses what the Corps does. That’s teamwork.

“They are learning to program a robot to accomplish different missions of a natural disaster. Teamwork allows them to identify a problem and a solution along with preventive measures,” said Royal.