A message from the President, National Training & Simulation Association (NTSA), sponsor of I/ITSEC
STEM—the nationwide effort to stimulate interest in the pursuit of science, technology, engineering, and math among young people and to promote their enhanced instruction in our schools. I have set out the compelling reasons why this effort should be an urgent national priority, upon whose success depends, in great measure, whether we retain our pre-eminence in these fields or sink to secondary status, with all that would imply for the future of our country. I have described NTSA’s efforts to capitalize on the natural interest of young people in using technology in their daily lives and our various programs—centered around the I/ITSEC Conference—to leverage that interest to stimulate enthusiasm for the sciences themselves and the exciting things that can be done with them.
These programs have been successful in raising awareness among young people and their instructors of the ever-increasing importance of modeling and simulation in our daily lives. They have, I believe, succeeded in making the connection between the excitement of immersive simulations and virtual worlds and the centrality of technology to their existence. They have shown students that they, too, can not only experience these worlds but also create them, using the tools of technology. But our efforts have lacked one critical element: continuity. Once I/ITSEC closes and the tours and discussions end, nothing much exists to capitalize on whatever enthusiasm we have generated. The students go back to their classrooms, as do their teachers, to continue with the business of science instruction as before.
In 2020 we led the effort for a week-long emphasis on STEM through our virtual STEM week at vIITSEC. This program provided teachers and students with a week of lectures, tours, activities, and discussions highlighting efforts and initiatives around the country. Beginning this year, we are providing virtual, hybrid, live on-line, and in person opportunities to bring industry and the Government together with teachers and students from around the country to pursue and expand these opportunities. Through these experiences, open to all teachers and students around the country, we hope to encourage educators and student to explore new technologies and expand their future goals to consider STEM career fields.
NTSA is also moving to provide these experiences on-demand after the conference and throughout the year, bringing students and teachers together to experience the applications of technologies in their curriculum and learning environments. For example, one initiative that is applicable to our educational environment is to employ multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), which allow students to interact within virtual contexts to test hypotheses. MUVEs, by facilitating inquiry-based science education, are excellent vehicles, I believe, for involving students in a potentially limitless variety of inquiry-based investigations. NTSA continues to seek out the best-in-class examples of strategies and technologies and enhance and expand opportunities for learning in our K-20 population.
Our NTSA STEM Committee is hard at work defining new opportunities that can be brought to our STEM Week at I/ITSEC, as well as throughout the year. It is our goal to offer our nation’s students and teachers access to industry innovation, academic competitions, and cross discipline collaboration. We are creating opportunities at I/ITSEC and beyond for teachers and students to create, present, learn, experience, and experiment.
We at NTSA continue be excited at the prospect of using aspects of modeling and simulation technology to help address the yawning gap between the U.S. and many other countries in science and technology learning. I am convinced that as we continue to educate our industry on the importance of STEM education to the future workforce, and offer opportunities to our educators and students, we can make a significant contribution to the future security of our nation.
RADM James Robb, USN (Ret)