Full STEM Ahead!

by Kim Ortega, NMAS Museum Tech

While ‘STEM’ is a relatively new concept, only being established in the 1950s, the Navy’s interest certainly isn’t a new development. First, what in the world is STEM? STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. Together, these four fields place an emphasis on “innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking” as described by Best Colleges.

We tend to see a lot of these jobs emerge within the private sector, but it also has been prevalent within the U.S. Navy. For instance, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) was established during the earliest years of World War II and has proved to be heavily influenced by STEM. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Prior to World War II, there were no formally trained bomb or mine disposal personnel, but the need became apparent when in 1939, the British navy dismantled the first German magnetic mine that had washed up on the shore of Shoeburyness, England. In 1941, the U.S. Naval Mine School was established at Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C., and subsequently, the Bomb Disposal School was established. About 20 trained bomb and mine disposal personnel . . . were killed in action during WWII.

Boilerman First Class Paul C. MC. Craw, (left) and Mine man Third Class Ralph E. Loux, examine a Viet Cong Claymore type mine which was disarmed by a member of the six-man bomb squad assigned to the U.S. Naval support activity, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. The cutaway exposes the mine’s missiles formed of iron construction rods shaped into a coil and notched to break into deadly pellets. When the charge explodes, the squad works with the anti-terrorist alert force operated by the Navy in Saigon.” Image courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command.

Over the past 80 years, the requirements of EOD Technicians have definitely expanded. While they still work to dismantle and render safe all types of explosives, Military.com explains that this list has grown to include “conventional, improvised, underwater, chemical, biological, and nuclear” materials. The new equipment helping them to perform this dangerous job? Robots. These specially designed pieces of equipment allow EOD teams and Technicians to “detect, confirm, identify and dispose of unexploded explosive ordnance and other hazards from a safe distance” as explained by the Joint Base San Antonio.

Image of then, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Michael D. Stevens, as he  “controls a Mark 2 Talon robot during a visit to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit (EODTEU) 1.” During this visit to an EOD training site, Stevens “spoke with EOD Technicians about the importance of their work.” Image courtesy of DVIDS.

When the Sailors of this command are not on the frontlines, they will find themselves at outreach events across the country to promote STEM education and foster relationships between a younger audience and the U.S. Navy.

Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Joseph Vanni, who was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit (EODESU) 2, can be seen showing a student the controls for a “Talon robotics systems during the Virginia Beach Public School’s “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Career Conference” held at Corporate Landing Middle School on September 27, 2013. Image courtesy of DVIDS.

This definitely sounds like a unique job experience! A few area students got the opportunity to try their hand at working with their own robots on Saturday, April 9, 2022 when they competed at the Navy Great Lakes Regional SeaPerch Competition.

Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Thomas Torrez reviews the build of an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) with a group of competitors at the 2019 Navy Great Lakes SeaPerch competition that was held at Recruit Training Command. Image courtesy of DVIDS.

SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting. Students build their ROV using pre-assembled kits and a STEM curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. Throughout the project, students learn engineering concepts, problem solving, teamwork, and technical applications.

Follow this LINK to find out more information on this competition or to sign-up for our SeaPerch newsletter.

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