A local high school student and regular participant in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs at Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic has been awarded more than $200,000 in scholarship money to pursue engineering at North Carolina State University this fall.
Like many others before him, 18-year-old Adam Womble soaked up the education, inspiration and experiences at NIWC Atlantic to not just gain encouragement in his STEM pursuits but also confidence to dream big.
“My experiences at NIWC Atlantic have been so positive and have helped me realize what areas of engineering I enjoy … things like virtual design machines and 3-D printing,” Womble said.
His tuition, textbooks, academic supplies and other expenses will be covered by a Roy H. Park Scholarship, which brings exceptional students to North Carolina State University based on scholarship, leadership, service and character.
Kelly Thompson, NIWC Atlantic STEM outreach co-director, has observed Womble over the years and called him an outstanding young man with a hard work ethic and impressive willingness to learn. “I was very happy for him when I heard he would be afforded this extraordinary opportunity,” she said.
When it comes to helping young people realize their talents and land their proverbial foot in the door, the STEM team at NIWC Atlantic has been getting the job done for years. The command has helped countless students get a leg up in a STEM career. In addition, it has recruited and retained dozens later on as employees.
Caliyah Kappel, a NIWC Atlantic computer scientist who works on Global Broadcast Service systems aboard ships, interned at NIWC Atlantic for several years before graduating with her cybersecurity degree from Charleston Southern University in 2019. She launched her career at NIWC Atlantic that fall.
“The STEM programs here, particularly the internships, allowed me to experience many areas of study — from cloud to forensics to architecture,” she said. “Learning something in school is completely different from actually doing it in a workplace setting, and NIWC has provided endless opportunities for me that I would not have gotten elsewhere.”
In Womble’s case, he always had an interest in engineering, spending countless hours as a child building little toy cities with blocks, train tracks and other accessories, according to his mother, Amanda Patterson-Womble, an engineer at NIWC Atlantic since 1991.
“Even though Adam knew early on that he wanted to be an engineer, attending the NIWC Atlantic STEM summer camps really helped him learn what he liked — and what he did not like, which is just as important,” Patterson-Womble said.
Her son narrowed it down to civil engineering. And because one of his ambitions in life is to improve the lives of others around him, he is pursuing a second major in public policy.
“I want to use the two fields as a medium, to physically construct a more sustainable, equitable and human-oriented environment — designing and planning spaces so that they are human-centered and not automobile-dependent,” Womble said. “Infrastructure and our built environment is integrally connected to our everyday lives, and I want to be a part of ensuring that these systems are efficient and well-designed.”
During his many years of participation in STEM at the command, Womble has been most involved in the Palmetto Cybersecurity Summer Camps.
Funded by the Naval Innovative, Science and Engineering (NISE) program, these camps help develop NIWC Atlantic’s future workforce by reaching out to local middle and high school students interested in STEM, according to Thomas Glaab, NIWC Atlantic’s NISE team lead.
The camps helped Womble explore everything from basic coding to programming to building a customized central processing unit.
Last summer, he took an even bigger step and interned with the command’s Expeditionary Warfare (ExW) Department through a collaboration with Office of Naval Research’s Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP), an eight-week paid internship that places high-performing high school students into Department of Defense (DoD) labs to be mentored in research and development by top scientists and engineers.
Working in the ExW Department’s Vehicular Technology Transition (VTT) section, Womble closely job-shadowed engineers and learned many applicable skills, such as creating floor plans using design and drafting software.
He also delved into the complicated world of DoD acquisitions; received instruction on radios, antennas and waveforms from electrical engineers; and even got to ride in an Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
Reflecting on the internship, Womble said it was an enriching experience, and he described each NIWC Atlantic staff member as engaging, considerate and approachable.
Chad Mears, a project lead on the VTT team who served as Womble’s mentor, called him an intelligent, reliable and hardworking young man.
“He proved to be an incredibly valuable asset to the team,” Mears said. “We even used materials he compiled through extensive research to brief out a specific acquisition requirement to the Marine Corps program office, which helped them make an informed decision.”
After graduating from Hanahan High School this month, Womble said he plans on doing another SEAP internship at NIWC Atlantic this summer before attending North Carolina State University in the fall.
Peter C. Reddy, NIWC Atlantic executive director, said the command’s STEM team does a superb job collaborating with local schools, industry and community organizations to help students become literate, competent and confident in STEM.
He said the team also provide a viable pipeline for the command’s future talent.
“STEM opportunities at NIWC Atlantic not only provide inspirational instruction and training but also serve as a strong foundation for so many students interested in pursuing STEM careers,” Reddy said. “Now more than ever, NIWC Atlantic is committed to this younger generation of students. Our Navy and our nation are depending on them, as our future leaders in the areas of cybersecurity, engineering and information technology. By helping them excel, they will help us win the information war.”
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.
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