Mother of USNA STEM Outreach Retires After 27 Years
POSTED ON: Wednesday, February 3, 2021 10:40 AM by MC2 Dana Legg
A middle school student from inner city Baltimore reaches out for a hug, and Dr. Angela Moran is there for the embrace. The trip from Baltimore to Annapolis is a short one, but for some students it can feel like another world walking around the foreign halls of the United States Naval Academy. Moran helps that underserved student realize their potential, and shows them that they have the ability to shape the future of the world. Over the years, Moran impacted not only midshipmen, but younger students from underserved communities.
In her decades as a professor at USNA, she dedicated the majority of her free moments building the Academy's STEM Center for Education and Outreach. Undoubtedly, without her devotion to education and continued research, USNA's STEM program would not be the world-renowned institution it is today. After more than 27 years of hard work and dedication, Moran retired Jan. 3.
“I’ve been very grateful to work with the like-minded faculty and midshipmen who have been willing to support our STEM efforts and believed in the STEM mission,” said Moran. “ It has been very enriching and fulfilling.”
Moran earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She researched advanced processing and manufacturing, rapid prototyping, nano engineering in powder metallurgy and rapid solidification materials characterization, and failures analysis at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. Moran led the charge in developing the manufacturing process of spray forming, resulting in the development of an intelligent spray forming capability that allowed production of complex military parts. She also provided consultation on materials and manufacturing methods to several Navy entities, including the Navy Undersea Warfare Center, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Naval Air Development Center.
“While I was doing my research in the eighties, nineties, and even in recent years, I was often the only woman in working groups or research teams,” said Moran. “I noticed a lack of diversity, and it was something I thought I should change.”
Moran got her start at the Academy in 1993 as an exchange professor teaching mechanical engineering, and then took a permanent position later that year in what is currently known as the mechanical engineering department. In 2003, she was the first woman at USNA to be promoted to full professor in the School of Weapons and Engineering.
“When that happened, it took me back a bit,” said Moran. “I couldn’t stop thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if we could get some more young ladies interested in science and engineering?”
After spending time working with local students who came to the yard for outreach programs, Moran started holding science and engineering camps on her own time. Her first-ever workshop was a girls-only technology camp, in 2007. Shortly thereafter, in 2008, she worked with USNA’s Admissions Office to develop the first iteration of USNA’s summer STEM program, which hosted 88 participants. By 2019, the summer STEM program grew to 838 participants, and is now one of the most robust STEM camps in the country. To date, USNA’s STEM program has resulted in the recruitment and induction of 523 midshipmen. Of those midshipmen, 188 were women and 69 were minority women.
“Across the country, women tend to be underrepresented in STEM fields,” said USNA Academic Dean and Provost Andrew Phillips. “Professor Moran is tireless in her pursuit of correcting that imbalance. She is well known as a mentor and role model for all students, but especially for female students, and she sets a standard for others to follow.”
Moran focused much of her efforts on underserved areas like inner city schools or low-income communities. The STEM Center works with approximately 1,000 educators each year, facilitating teaching workshops to help educators improve their teaching skills, and show them how to get their students interested in STEM. Today, the STEM Center holds approximately 70 annual outreach events.
One such event is SeaPerch, where middle school students race unmanned underwater vehicles. Held virtually this year due to the COVID pandemic, the event was slightly abridged, but nonetheless it presented an opportunity for the STEM Center to work with local students.
“A few years ago my mom visited some schools in New Mexico to meet with educators, and since then we’re seeing schools all over the country do annual SeaPerch events, something that used to be internal to the Academy,” said Moran’s son Air Force Capt. P.J. Moran, a physics instructor at USNA. “There’s this trickle-down effect of STEM education, and it all leads back to my mom.”
From 2010 to 2015, Moran was designated the Ralph Odgers ‘47 Distinguished Professor in STEM. The support for this position was provided by the estate of Ralph and Carol Odgers in 2009, following the Odgers’ vision to encourage more young adults to pursue careers in STEM. The professor was to teach midshipmen in their area of expertise, aid in developing exciting STEM curriculum, and to serve as a focal point for outreach to the community on STEM education. Dr. Ernst Volgenau, Class of 1955, shared a similar interest in STEM education, and provided support for STEM engagements at the Academy. As the STEM Center director, part of Moran’s salary was supported by the Volgenau Funds for Academic Excellence, when she held the Volgenau chair.
“She had all these goofy [anecdotes] that she’d use to try and keep the students interested,” said Ensign Annie Dunigan, a Class of 2020 graduate and prior student of Moran. “When we had workshops with just the educators, she would pick a theme for each day; she really tried her best to keep everything fun and exciting.”
In retirement Moran plans to continue to inspire educators by focusing on the nonprofit organization she began with son P.J. in 2017, Engineers on Deck. Their organization aspires to provide effective and affordable educator training and outreach to make the engineering and applied science fields accessible and possible for kindergarten through high school students.
As the undergraduate college of our country’s naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the US. Navy and Marine Corps.