Students Learn Paths to Building Exciting Careers

Third Annual Southern Maryland Youth in Technology Summit Draws Hundreds

            Getting a jump-start on learning what it will take to build a high-tech career while still a middle-school or high-school student was among the goals of the Third Annual Southern Maryland Youth in Technology Summit, held Nov. 13 at the College of Southern Maryland’s La Plata Campus. Coming face-to-face with real scientists and technical trades people was another.

            With matching NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) backpacks loaded with tchotchkes from Navy, trade union and technology business exhibitors, more than 300 young people, parents and teachers from Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties explored the educational pathways leading to technology careers from people currently working in military, security, health, utilities and construction fields. 

            “Connecting the dots for our youth toward a future in technology will help increase the number of students who choose careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines,” said event organizer Al Leandre, founder and president of Vyalex Management Solutions and director on CSM’s Foundation Board.

            Wearing flashing LED lights from the Charles County Tech Council as earrings, Lakia Savoy, 11, a student at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, participated in a demonstration led by John Daley from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on the high-speed camera used in NAVAIR’s human systems department. What onlookers saw as a water-filled balloon popping and spraying water on Savoy, was actually caught by the 3,000-frame-per-second high-speed camera as a slow puncture with a rapid but symmetrical peeling away of rubber from a globe of suspended water. With her friends and other participants gathered, Savoy watched the slow-motion video replayed on a monitor.

Introducing middle and high school students to Daley and other science and technology professionals allows students to put a friendly face—and an exciting experience—with specialties and jobs as enigmatic as dynamic testing; chemical, biological and radiological experimentation; electro-optics sensors; aerospace machinist and elevator mechanic. 

            The relevant part of all of this is to connect professionals in a variety of science and technology fields directly with students, said Leandre.

            “Our generation built the space shuttle and mapped the human genome. Yours will build on those to bring about even greater innovation,” Leandre wrote to students in the event program welcome. “We still have diseases such as HIV-AIDS and cancer to be cured, problems such as global climate change and world hunger to be addressed. Locally, we still have great need for a sustainable development to our region, healthcare for our growing and aging population, and national security related jobs that require years of study.” He urged students to develop their passion, find a job that they will love and make positive contributions to their community.

            Students from Milton M. Somers Middle School, led by chaperone and teacher Sarah Williams, attended the workshop “Dirty Job” Training at the College of Southern Maryland. Learning about careers in welding, motorcycle mechanics and other trades was “awesome,” according to Zoe Ziebell of La Plata. Along with classmates Julia Rivenburg and Dana Hairston, Ziebell also attended a workshop on the pathways to careers in the healthcare field which included a tour of CSM’s state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab, and opportunities to take blood pressure and pulses, administer oxygen and speak to the manikin patients.

Travis Earnshaw, an eighth-grader at Piccowaxen Middle School, strapped into an F-16 Fighting Falcoln rocket ejection seat while John Schubert and Jay Emmanuel, civilian scientists at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head, explained the science behind non-destructive evaluations. Chemical, electrical and mechanical engineers all have a hand in working on their projects, Schubert said.

            “The fighter jet pilots can pull a cord and catapult out of a plane that is getting ready to crash,” Earnshaw said. He attended a robotics camp at CSM last summer and is participating in a robotics club this year in school. “Science is my favorite subject,” he said, adding that to work in one of these fields he will have to concentrate more on his math skills.

            Emmanuel recalls contemplating his career path in science when he was Earnshaw’s age but decided in high school he was going to design cars or spaceships, he said. “I knew in high school that I would need an engineering degree to achieve my goals but I didn’t know what type of engineer I needed to be until college. Fortunately, I already liked and did well in math and science.”

            “I would advise young people to find what they are passionate about—when you follow your passion it’s a lot easier to do the hard work that it will take to reach your goal,” Emmanuel said.

            “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a scientist,” said Physicist Dr. Frank Narducci who works in the Electro-Optics (EO) Sensors Division at NAVAIR. “In middle and high school I knew that I had to do well in science and math, and all subjects to get into college,” he said. Narducci’s inspiration and mentor was his father who was a scientist.

            It wasn’t until college that Narducci settled on physics. He followed his father’s field, but instead of becoming a theorist, Narducci is an experimentalist.

            At the Youth in Technology Summit, Narducci modified experiments he conducts for the Navy in demonstrations for students. With an optical interferometer, which demonstrates the wave nature of light, an oscilloscope to display signals and ordinary audio speakers, Narducci demonstrated how vibrations might be sensitively detected. In another demonstration, he used liquid nitrogen to bring concepts of extremely cold temperatures to students.

In his NAVAIR lab, Narducci uses laser to super-cool atoms to extreme temperatures for measurement applications. These devices have applications as a high-precision sensor to measure fundamental constants or changes in gravity. Narducci explained that this technology would allow the military to detect the presence of tunnels as the removed mass of dirt from within a tunnel would be indicated by a variation in gravity.

            In addition to Navy divisions, National Security Administration, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Electricians Local 26, Sheet Metal Workers Local 100, National Elevator Industry, Patuxent Partnership, Spalding Consulting, Black Leadership Council for Excellence, The ARC of Southern Maryland, Charles County Tech Council and CSM’s Nuclear Engineering Technology, Center for Trades and Energy Training and Health Sciences Department provided exhibits. Event participants had an opportunity to choose from 30-minute workshops that included information on the construction industry, healthcare careers, cyber ethics, national security careers and others.

            For information on the Youth in Technology Summit, visit