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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Office of Naval Research Grant Will Fund Creation of Program to Help Veterans Transition to STEM Fields

Old Dominion University researchers in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology have received a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Office of Naval Research. The award will allow researchers to develop a pilot program advancing STEM education and outreach to military veterans.

With large numbers of military personnel preparing to leave active duty, this grant will fund the creation of educational modules, provide academic support to help overcome traditional educational barriers in math and science and enable veterans to pursue baccalaureate degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The researchers will also develop protocols for transferring and establishing the program in additional colleges at ODU and at other universities with large concentrations of veterans.

The "From Stern to STEM" program will initially aid veterans in pursuit of an engineering or engineering technology degree by building on the life experience and technical skills developed during their time in the military, and provide individual support and mentoring to handle the rigors of the curriculums.

"Veterans, through their active service, frequently receive training in highly skilled technical areas," said Tony Dean, associate professor of engineering fundamentals and sponsored programs for the Batten College, and principal investigator on the grant. "This program will build on the specialized training that veterans received during their time in service, to support the re-employment of these veterans, with system-level expertise, as engineers into the Department of Defense and the wider defense support industry."

Other researchers on the grant include Linda Vahala, associate dean of the Batten College; Sandy Waters, executive director for advising and transfer programs; Yuzhong Shen, associate professor of modeling and simulation; and Jennifer Michaeli, assistant professor of engineering technology.

The program is also being supported by Lt. Col. Bill Brown (ret.), director of Old Dominion's Military Connections Center, and Bev Forbes, director of experiential education programs with the Career Management Center.

The program will involve:

  • Establishing mechanisms for outreach and recruitment of highly skilled enlisted and officer veterans into the naval and marine engineering plans;
  • Providing leveling, tutoring, mentoring and support for veteran students as well as determining what degree course credit can be awarded to program enlistees based on previous academic or military experience;
  • Integrating students into accredited engineering and technology programs offered by the University, while still maintaining a support system for veterans to finish their degrees;
  • Partnering with the Navy and the naval engineering community to facilitate student career placement in the Navy STEM workforce.

Old Dominion is well-positioned to deliver this program. The Hampton Roads region boasts the only site in the U.S. for aircraft carrier construction, repair and maintenance; one of two sites for the construction of submarines; and one of four public shipyards.

"The University maintains close partnerships with the U.S. Navy, and all other branches of the military, as well as the maritime, shipbuilding and ship repair industries," Dean said. "ONR's investment in this program recognizes ODU's importance to the Navy and the DoD in educating the next generation of STEM workers."

Hampton Roads is home to 20 percent of the Navy's workforce, as well as significant representation of other military branches. As a result, more than one-quarter of Old Dominion's student body has a direct connection to the military.

Old Dominion's role in education and research supports the military and its veterans, and is a vital for the continued strength of the defense base in Hampton Roads," Dean said.

Old Dominion Researchers Partner on Second ONR Grant

The Office of Naval Research also recently announced funding for another project that includes faculty members of the Batten College.

Vukica Jovanovich, assistant professor of engineering technology, is the lead Old Dominion University researcher on a collaborative project with Tidewater Community College, to develop and implement a set of standards to build an educational pathway from an associate degree in applied science to a Bachelor of Science degree.

The general engineering technology degree will provide a maritime engineering concentration and emphasize mechatronics - a multidisciplinary field of engineering that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering and computer engineering.

The three-year, $500,000 project will focus on a dual effort in the development of a pathway for maritime mechatronics education. The project will begin by reaching out to high school students and exposing them to possible mechatronics careers through dual enrollment classes. The second effort will focus on mapping out needed competencies for maritime mechatronics technicians and maritime mechatronic engineering technologists.

Through this dual approach, curriculum materials will be developed and a pathway will be established for further undergraduate education leading to work as supervisors, quality controllers, manager and engineers in the field of maritime mechatronics.

Mileta Tomovic, professor of engineering technology; and Petros Katsioloudis, associate professor and co-chair of the Department of STEM Education & Professional Studies in Old Dominion's Darden College of Education are also working on the project. It is led by Thomas Stout of Tidewater Community College.

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