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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2016

NRL Hosts D.C. Public School Teachers for Lab Tour

By Jonathan B. Holloway

Recently the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) collaborated in the name of all things STEM. NRL hosted 10 educators with STEM backgrounds from high schools around the District for an exclusive tour of the lab.

The partnership is a result of NRL leadership and D.C educators working to inspire STEM in the D.C community, while offering as many resources as possible.

Before the teachers began their tour, there was some uncertainty about what to expect. “I really don’t know what to expect from this tour. I’ve heard of the lab in various news outlets, but other than that I am ready to see”, said Jillian Blair, a six-year teacher from Columbia Heights Education Campus.

The teachers visited the lab’s electronics sciences and technology division (EST) and chemistry division. During the EST division tour teachers saw demonstrations in photovoltaic lab, quantum information and sensing, silicon carbide power electronics and vacuum electronics, by Drs. Philip Jenkins, Samuel Carter, Francis Kub, and David Abe. The chemistry division was presented by Drs. Brad Ringeisen and Brad Pirlo.

As the tour progressed researchers and educators seemed to become more excited. “ … my students would love you … they need this!” , said Angelia Benjamin a 23-year teacher from Woodrow Wilson High School. Benjamin’s’ excitement came after hearing about NRL’s mentorship program, and Dr. Pirlo’s diverse professional background. While pursuing a B.S in physics, Pirlo also volunteered as a DJ at his college radio station.

“… I became very engrossed in DJ'ing and electronic music … I started supplementing my physics course work with electrical engineering and computer science courses, preparing for a master’s in music engineering, hoping to build DJ equipment, synthesizers or write music production software. At some point I learned of the existence and success of cochlear implants and was fascinated with brain machine interfaces.”, said Pirlo.

He went on to express why he spoke with DCPS teachers about this instance. He reflected that whatever subject matter inspires youth, there are likely to be skill sets from that field beneficial for the future, even if interest change.

Unlike the beginning of the tour, the reaction of the educators afterwards was considerably more familiar of NRL. The once uncertain Jillian Blair stated, “I was impressed with the pivoting ability of the work.” Commenting on the flexibility of the research, and the lab’s ability to react to the Navy’s needs at a moments notice.


The Strategic Communications Office is a multifaceted and functioning component at NRL. The office has many duties and responsibilities, including the distribution of public information, media relations, laboratory tours, and Freedom of Information Act request.

One responsibility performed with passion is STEM community outreach. NRL is a resourceful institution in the heart of D.C. with the ability to inspire STEM and represent a positive image throughout the community. This is done through partnerships with academic institutions, sponsors and those with special interest, to name a few instances.

If you or your division wishes to help with STEM outreach, or are already participating in STEM outreach please reach out to NRL’s Strategic Communications Office.

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