“The idea evolved from the Code Quest events that we host for high school students,” explained John McGroary ’89, a Villanova Computer Science alumnus and Lockheed Martin professional in the area of corporate information security. “During Code Quest we have a Coaches Corner where we discuss ways to get students more interested in STEM. They suggested we provide teachers with mentoring.” This boot camp was the first of what the company hopes will become regular offerings.
After lectures and labs taught by Lockheed Martin employees, the day concluded with a discussion involving Villanova Engineering students who shared their thoughts on how to better engage high schoolers in STEM. One student pointed out how challenging it is to fit courses like computer science or web design into an ambitious college-track schedule that leaves little room for what are considered electives. Mechanical Engineering sophomore Robert Norfleet suggested introducing computer and engineering through a required course. Francis Garvey ’19 CE recommended that teachers use the days remaining after Advanced Placement tests (when the curriculum is no longer being taught) to engage students in these learning opportunities.
Several Villanova students noted the importance of mentors and offered to serve in that capacity. “In high school I didn’t really know what engineering was,” admits Kaitlyn O’Sullivan ’20 ME, who added, “College undergrads could be role models for high school kids.” Springfield High School teacher Cynthia Gill agreed: “It is particularly important in attracting females to the industry.” Teachers also acknowledged that it’s “more real and less intimidating for high school students to learn about these subjects from college students.” The conversation led a Villanova Engineering student to suggest that NovaCANE (Villanova Community Action by New Engineers)—the College’s STEM outreach program for elementary school-age children—be implemented at the high school level.
Lockheed Martin’s Sean Bernard, who coordinated the event, noted that he sees many opportunities for the company and the College to collaborate to further help local school districts, including the possibility of Villanova students mentoring teens in Code Quest. Bernard then concluded the day’s activities by providing an overview of Lockheed Martin’s internship and co-op programs, which, he added, “Very often lead to full-time jobs.”