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    NIWC Pacific Team Triumphs with DoD STEM Award Amid Autonomous Sub Challenges

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    Sailor signals to launch an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    A group of volunteers from Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific has captured the Department of Defense (DoD) STEM Advocate of the Quarter award, showcasing their commitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through the 26th International Student Robotic Submarine (RoboSub) competition.

    The award, which honors exceptional educational and outreach efforts, underlines the vital connection between STEM initiatives and the mission of the DoD.

    The NIWC Pacific’s team, numbering around 100 volunteers, earned this recognition after meticulously planning and carrying out the RoboSub contest in August 2023.

    The event featured 35 teams, including 350 students from countries such as the U.S., Canada, India, Singapore, and Bangladesh. Participants designed robotic submarines that tackled challenges similar to those in the autonomous underwater vehicle sector.

    The NIWC Pacific volunteers, together with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), dedicated over 1,000 hours to assist students in overcoming obstacles in underwater disciplines, such as oceanographic exploration and object manipulation.

    One of the highlights was coordinating a visit from the then Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Lisa Franchetti, which bolstered the event’s visibility and significance.

    Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus commended the team’s dedication, stating, “Through passion, hard work, and vision, they helped ensure an engaging, inclusive and rigorous RoboSub event for the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

    This accolade serves as a dynamic introduction to naval challenges, proving the importance of fostering young talent and enthusiasm in the field.

    The event, praised by Travis Moscicki, project lead at Unmanned Maritime Vehicle Lab, and Stephanie Luna, strategy implementation manager at Corporate Operations, co-leaders of the team, was a triumphant return to an in-person format after a hiatus due to the pandemic.

    The excitement and talent of the young engineers did not go unnoticed, as Moscicki highlighted the achievements of all-women teams from Arizona State University and Texas A&M.

    Adm. Lisa Franchetti, a self-described STEM enthusiast and current vice chief of naval operations, sees RoboSub and similar events as crucial to inspiring the future workforce and attracting potential Navy recruits.

    At the competition held at the TRANSDEC pool at Naval Base Point Loma, teams tackled real-world challenges, reflecting the Navy’s growing interest in unmanned technologies.

    Franchetti emphasized that embracing and adapting to new technology is key to prevailing in crises and wars. She lauded the students’ problem-solving abilities and the learning environment fostered by the RoboSub event, which aligns with the Navy’s technical orientation and need for critical thinkers.

    The competition, initially launched in 1998, has grown into a collaborative learning and networking experience, with a strong emphasis on autonomy and innovation.

    Warren Duffie Jr., a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications, reported on the event, highlighting its impact on the future workforce. Teams face intense challenges, requiring creative problem-solving and collaboration, a testament to the Navy’s commitment to advancing STEM and developing the leaders of tomorrow.

    Relevant articles:
    Valued Volunteers: NIWC Pacific Employees Win DoD STEM Prize for RoboSub Service, DVIDS
    VCNO Franchetti Talks STEM Skills at Autonomous Sub Contest, USNI News

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