Coast Guard engineers mentor Great Minds in S.T.E.M.


Garrett Morgan High School hosted a brain trust of Coast Guard engineers and technicians from various units, May 21, to sponsor Viva Technology, a nationally recognized Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) Education Outreach program.

Lt. j.g. Garrett R, Feldman, an engineering officer aboard the 378-foot Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton, kicked-off the event at 9 a.m. as a guest speaker. He participated as a student in 2003 and graduated from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami.

In addition to sharing his personal triumph and fulfillment of serving his country, Feldman encouraged the more than 100 science academy students to stay in school, to do well and to consider becoming scientists or engineers.

James Somerville, an Information Systems Security technician with Electronics Support Unit Cleveland, followed him as a speaker. Somerville shared his career in the U.S. Navy for 12 years, including his job as a Coast Guard civilian – to which he emphasized the Coast Guard being a unique organization that carries out a wide-range of civil and military responsibilities.

After speaking for 15 minutes, he fielded various questions from the students, who curiously enough, seemed more interested in where he traveled to during his career in the Navy than what he does in his current career.

After lunch, Somerville, Feldman and other Coast Guard engineers participated as mentors and judges during the Team Challenge phase. With about five to seven groups with 10-15 students, their task was to design and build a structure capable of withstanding a major earthquake, hypothetical one – of course.

Then, they tackled the Dream Invention Challenge, where teams were given the task to create an invention to solve problems for the future. Throughout the evolution of the wooden tower construction, the College Captains from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, John Carroll University and Akron University augmented the Coast Guard engineers. The college captains served as near-peer role models and shared their academic experience as well as professional aspirations.

In addition to Feldman and Somerville, the following offered support and mentorship:

Cmdr. Michael Dickey – Commanding Officer, Electronics Support Unit Cleveland

Lt. Jaime Salinas – Investigations, Sector Upper Mississippi River

Ensign Kenneth Fisher, USCG Headquarters, Command and Control Infrastructure Division

Chief Warrant Officer Luisito Baytan, USCG Headquarters, C2 Infrastructure Division

All provided technical instruction in structural engineering, roving from table-to-table. At various stages, they awarded teams with “Viva dollars” for completing significant portions of the construction phase. Toward the end, the engineers unveiled a “secret” item to secure the tower supports …

… Super glue

They especially imparted the importance of the triangle and the arch as the principal shapes for structural soundness.

Teams that completed a correctly constructed tower within a prescribed time limit fist-pumped and hollered like a team scoring a touchdown during the two-minute warning to take the lead.

Since its inception in 2001, the Viva Technology Program is an education outreach program of the national non-profit organization Great Minds in STEM. It is also designed to engage inner-city students and rural K-12 students, teachers and parents in activities that stimulate their interest in the applications of technology and open doors to academic achievements in STEM subjects.

Created with flickr slideshow.