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NEWS | Nov. 30, 2022

NIWC Atlantic STEM Program Receives ‘Employer of Education’ Award

By Steve Ghiringhelli Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Trident Regional Education Center of the South Carolina Department of Commerce recently presented its inaugural “Employer of Education Excellence” award to Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic for its outreach to school districts in the Lowcountry.

Announced at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 25, the honor recognizes South Carolina employers for fostering excellence in public education. In the case of NIWC Atlantic, the award highlights the command’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) work in the school districts of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.

“We were actually surprised by this award and so overjoyed to receive it,” said Kelly Thompson, NIWC Atlantic STEM co-director. “Our understanding was that NIWC Atlantic would be recognized, but not with the top honor. Plus, educators from our own community nominated us, which was even more rewarding.”

By recognizing organizations like NIWC Atlantic, South Carolina education and commerce leaders seek to emphasize their commitment to developing excellence in public school learning.

For NIWC Atlantic, where civilian engineers and scientists work at the leading edge of the Navy’s most important technological advancements, STEM leaders work with students to not only support the local community but also develop a talented future workforce.

“For years we have engaged the community on in-demand STEM careers, emerging technologies and instruction in fields such as electrical circuits, geographical information systems, cybersecurity and engineering,” said Dr. Suzanne Huerth, who leads NIWC Atlantic’s Science and Technology Department under which all STEM activities fall. “Many professionals who work for the command even volunteer their time to mentor robotics teams, support school career fairs and encourage youngsters during ‘Lunch and Learns.’”

And when schools let out for the summer, NIWC Atlantic calls STEM classes into session with events like the “Splash into Summer” engineering challenge, Palmetto Cybersecurity Summer Camp and IDEAS Camp. The team also engages youth in the community through county fairs, farmer’s markets and other public events.

One example of its outreach took place on Nov. 19, when the team welcomed over 200 students to NIWC Atlantic’s Holiday STEM Shop. Set up in a local public school gym, the event featured a dozen craft-building stations in which children made and gift-wrapped items for their families.

Dr. Patricia Ferguson, regional workforce advisor at the South Carolina Department of Commerce, said the Employer of Education Excellence pilot initiative is designed to leverage innovations happening in the state’s public school systems. “We are always seeking ways to support opportunities for exponential growth,” she said.

For NIWC Atlantic, which has a long history of championing STEM education in the Lowcountry and beyond, the recognition made its commander feel proud of the workforce she represents.

“I am truly amazed at the talent and dedication of the NIWC Atlantic team to ensure we are preparing the next generation of engineers and leaders,” said Capt. Nicole Nigro, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer. “I was humbled, when I heard we had received this distinction from our state’s leadership.

“Congratulations to the STEM staff and all the volunteers that make our STEM program world class,” she added. “I am proud of you, and I urge you to continue working hard in our communities.”

About NIWC Atlantic

As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.