Friday, February 11, 2011

FRCSE encourages tomorrow’s engineers, judges student science exhibits

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) civilian and military personnel judged the 2011 Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Inc., where students presented 350 exhibits in 15 disciplines ranging from Behavior Science to Zoology at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium in Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 7. 

The event encourages students in grades 6 through 12 with a keen interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), to pursue higher education; STEM careers comprise a significant percentage of technical jobs in the U.S. Navy.

FRCSE Corporate Operations Officer Cmdr. Paul Filardi, Electronics Engineer Dan Danson, Mechanical Engineer Bill Kercher and Aerospace Engineers Michael Beals and Elizabeth Nealin were among the judges to review the Engineering, Physics and Space Science categories.

Filardi, an F/A-18 Hornet naval flight officer with 19 years of Naval service, holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in aviation systems. He said he volunteered for two reasons: to see what today’s youth find interesting in scientific fields and to possibly share his knowledge and aircraft test and evaluation experience. 

He judged a rowing exhibit that evaluated the position of an oar collar and its effect on rowing speed presented by Kevin Coyle, a Bishop Kenny High School student who crews for Stanton Riverbank Rowing. Filardi said Coyle’s exhibit was “very well organized.” 

“I have a renewed appreciation for our country’s youth after seeing the amazing, broad spectrum of projects at the fair and talking with the students,” he said.

Danson, a former adjunct professor who taught electronics, math and technical writing courses at night for more than ten years at the University of North Florida and other institutions, said he “enjoys the interaction with students.” This is his third year judging the event. 

He said the Obama administration in August 2010 named Florida as one of 10 winners in the second round of the “Race to the Top” school grant program that gives a competitive preference to states that commit to improving STEM education. The Sunshine State's cut is about $700 million. 

“I would like to see our local congressional representatives lobby for more federal educational grants,” he said. “I would also like to see the grant we won equally distributed in Florida with proper allocation to Northeast Florida and not have the entire $700 million spent only in south Florida." 

Danson judged Senior Division Engineering projects during the morning session, including Atlantic Coast High School Freshman Samantha Cristol’s entry evaluating optical quality for three Nikkor camera lenses with varying focal distances. 

In the afternoon, he and other judges narrowed the field from 80 to 36 of the best exhibits that will compete at the 56th State Science and Engineering Fair in Orlando, Fla., March 23-25.

In 2010, President Obama called on 200,000 federal government employees working in the fields of science and engineering to volunteer to work with educators to enhance STEM education.

One opportunity open to high school students is the Navy’s Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP). It offers a unique opportunity for students to apprentice at Department of Defense laboratories for eight weeks during the summer. Students conduct research alongside scientists and engineers who act as mentors. There are about 20 Navy laboratories across the country participating in SEAP. To view information on the program, visit

Another program open to students entering grades 8 to 11 is the U.S. Naval Academy Summer STEM Program in Annapolis, Md. Candidates are selected for accomplishments inside and outside the classroom. There is no tuition requirement for the weeklong workshop. Applications available at are now being accepted for the June sessions.

Atlantic Coast High School Freshman Samantha Cristol (center) explains her hypothesis on the optical quality of three Nikkor camera lenses with varying focal distances to Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Electronics Engineer Dan Danson, a judge at the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair Feb. 7. (U.S. Navy photo by Marsha Childs/Released)

Stanton College Preparatory School student Heather Overstreet (center left) discusses her experiment of transforming magnetic fields to electrical energy with Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Mechanical Engineer Bill Kercher (center right) at the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair Feb. 7. (U.S. Navy photo by Marsha Childs/Released)

During the 2011 Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair Feb. 7, Cmdr. Paul Filardi, an F/A-18 Hornet naval flight officer assigned to Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, judges a rowing exhibit presented by Kevin Coyle who evaluated the position of the oar collar and its effects on rowing speed. (U.S. Navy photo by Marsha Childs/Released)

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