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NEWS | March 10, 2017

SPAWAR employee recognized by OSD as top STEM advocate

By Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Office Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Outreach Program Director Shanda Johnson was recently honored by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering with the STEM Advocate of the Quarter Award.


Johnson coordinates and leads outreach efforts for SSC Atlantic's Charleston, New Orleans and Tidewater sites. Over the previous five years, she developed a cadre of more than 300 SSC Atlantic volunteers supporting extended outreach activities to more than 30,000 students. In FY16 alone, Johnson enabled 57 For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology (FIRST) robotics teams with more than 800 students and 100 mentors.


She interacts with parents, educators and students, ensuring students are inspired and parents are informed of opportunities for children to pursue STEM careers.  Last season, robotics competitions in South Carolina reached more than 5,000 parents, students, educators and family and community members. Johnson also emphasizes cybersecurity in SSC Atlantic's STEM Outreach Program and helped to establish week-long, hands on, interactive cyber camps at all three SSC Atlantic locations, educating more than 200 students annually. SSC Atlantic's Charleston location also hosts the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition, an intense cyber network "attack and defend" competition. For the past four years, this two-day weekend event impacted more than 200 high school and college students each year. Additional activities include forensic challenges, curriculum development, IT Shadow Day, student/teacher shadow opportunities, career fairs, DimensionU, math and science nights and speaking engagements.


As an outreach champion, Johnson spearheaded programs providing opportunities to minority, disadvantaged and underserved community students, such as Girls Day Out, hosted in Charleston for five years and recently expanded to Hampton Roads and New Orleans.  This program touched and influenced more than 500 rising eighth and ninth grade girls and their parents, encouraging, influencing and educating them on STEM careers.


Johnson collaborates with colleges, universities, local businesses and the mayor's office to sponsor "My Brother's Keeper," weekend summer camp, and worked with community leaders and the mayor's office to stand up a "My Brother's Keeper Coalition" in Charleston.  Johnson ensures SSC Atlantic takes advantage of the Navy's Science Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP), Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program NREIP and Summer Faculty Research Program SFRP, ensuring selectees are from diverse backgrounds and that students gain exposure and experience in STEM careers.


Johnson's devotion to increasing technical opportunities for students is both a personal and professional endeavor. SSC Atlantic and the Navy have already gained a return of their investment by hiring new professionals who were previous participants in the STEM Outreach Program. "It is clear that she has gone above and beyond in her dedication to STEM outreach and advocacy on behalf of the Department of Defense," said Mary J. Miller, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, "She is truly deserving of this honor."