Naval STEM Program

Ironwood Ridge High School student Brandon McKay spent part of his summer in the United States Naval Academy STEM Program. During the program, he and others focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

While some high school students might spend their summer between their freshmen and sophomore year relaxing and not thinking about school, Ironwood Ridge High School student Brandon McKay focused his attention on science, technology, engineering and math.

As part of the United States Naval Academy STEM Program, McKay spent a week with about 150 peers from across the country in Annapolis, Maryland to focus on engineering and technology. The program is designed to have its participants gain and hopefully pursue a course of study in those areas in college.

The program has about 4,000 students apply each year. Of that, about 1,500 are eligible for an appointment to then see if they are suitable to attend.

For Brandon, he didn’t think he would get accepted, but applied anyway.

“I had summer school, that was my original plan,” he said. “Because I thought I would never get accepted because it was too big or prestigious.”

Once there,  he found the most interesting thing was the college-type courses, which gave him an idea of what college, in a few years, will be like. In those courses, he found out he liked some school material that he once didn’t.

“I learned some new stuff with physics,” Brandon said. “I thought physics was always boring and only had equations. But then when I saw what they did there, it seemed really interesting – lights, beams, waves, sound waves – it was really interesting.”

Throughout the weeklong program, he stayed in the barracks and got a feel for how the Naval Academy truly was and studied everything from cryptology to jets and rockets. There were also courses on oceanography and biometrics.

Participants who got accepted into the program gained exposure to the number five ‘Best Undergraduate Engineering Program’ in the country, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. They spent time in lab facilities that provided a unique learning environment outside the traditional classroom. They got to experience real-life application of math and science principles through hands-on practical learning and met like-minded students who share a similar interest in technology and engineering.

Brandon’s parents Doug and Miyako, told him that every year on a fall break they would go some place around the country to look at different universities. During their trip between Brandon’s eighth-grade and freshman year, they went to Boston, MIT, Harvard, NYU, and West Pointe.

While on that trip, the family learned of the Naval Academy and the STEM program offered during the summer months.

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