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Naval Academy STEM center director looks back at programs creation following retirement

After nearly 30 years at the Naval Academy, Angela Moran, director of the STEM Center for Education and Outreach, decided to retire.

If retirement is leaving one job to help run a non-profit Moran started with her husband.

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Moran started as a tenure track mechanical engineering professor at the academy in 1993, while also continuing to do research for the Navy and the Air Force, she said.

Female mechanical engineering professors were rare, and in 2003, Moran became the academy’s first female instructor promoted to a full professor in the School of Weapons and Engineering, according to a release from the academy.

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Moran wanted to do more outreach programs, especially for female students who were shy about a career in a science, technology, engineering and math field, she said. She started an after-school engineering program targeted at girls.

“And I found how responsive they were, and how empowered they were,” Moran said. “And that really empowered me. That was like the seed.”

The STEM programs were in addition to her work as a professor, said Joe McGettigan, who is now the director of the STEM Center.

“The thing that I think was so remarkable was she was just so dedicated to making this happen,” McGettigan said. “She had to go and get all of her own funding and pay for every opportunity that she had to be able to push this forward. But she was just so dedicated to doing it, and believed in the program so much that she built it into this program that it is now, which is massive.”

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The after-school program turned into a camp, which started in 2007, she said.

“And it was just so much excitement, so much energy,” Moran said. “It just became the foundation for everything that we were doing.”

The dean of admissions heard about the camp and asked Moran to expand it into a summer program, which began in 2009 with between 60 to 80 kids, she said. Now, the summer program brings in about 850 kids from all over the world.

The program has also helped the academy recruit midshipmen from underserved areas, especially female midshipmen.

So far, the program recruited 523 midshipmen, according to the academy release. Of the 523, 188 were female midshipmen with another 69 female midshipmen who identify as a minority.

Eighth grade student volunteer Matt Kondracki helps Professor Angela Moran demonstrate how freezing an inflated balloon with liquid nitrogen changes its properties in 2019. Naval Academy STEM Outreach Director Angela Moran is retiring from the academy to work on a nonprofit she started with her husband.
Eighth grade student volunteer Matt Kondracki helps Professor Angela Moran demonstrate how freezing an inflated balloon with liquid nitrogen changes its properties in 2019. Naval Academy STEM Outreach Director Angela Moran is retiring from the academy to work on a nonprofit she started with her husband. (By Paul W. Gillespie, Staff , Capital Gazette)

The center is left in good hands, Moran said, a reason she felt she could retire. She made sure there is enough funding secured to ensure its success.

McGettigan said he misses her wealth of knowledge. While they still have engineering knowledge spread out among the staff at the center and at the academy, Moran seemed to have all areas covered.

A good engineer is resourceful and researches a problem, Moran said, attributing her expertise to hard work.

“I think a good engineer is a jack of all trades,” she said.

Being one of the few women in her department also drove her to do a good job and learn more. Now she can be a role model and mentor for other students pursuing engineering.

When she is teaching students about engineering, she helps them learn about critical thinking skills. She teaches them to collect data. To do their own research. How to question.

For the past five years, Moran’s work focused on the administrative side. She is ready to go back to teaching and interacting with the kids her programs aimed to reach, she said.

Her nonprofit, Engineers on Deck, will let her return to that interaction, she said. She is working with Anne Arundel County schools, as well as the University of Maryland System.

Moran loved interacting with the children and young adults in the program, said John Schofield, a retired Navy commander who served as the academy public affairs officer. She was in it for the betterment of the program’s participants.

“And the kids have had so much fun, and that that’s so emblematic of what Angela did with STEM is that not only did she prioritize it, not only did she make it kind of a part of the fabric of what we do for community service at the Naval Academy, but she made it fun,” Schofield said.

Moran put in the time to make the program a success, Schofield said. She also took her own time to mentor others.

The amount of work that went into the STEM center is one reason that Moran considered retirement from the Naval Academy. She promised her husband once she reached 40 years in federal service, which she reached in January, that she would retire.

Being one of the few female mechanical engineering professors meant working longer hours and pushing herself harder, including while raising three children with her husband.

That lifestyle could be taxing, she said, recalling a time where she flew to Wales and back in less than 48 hours. It also meant she pushed other goals aside in order to grow the STEM center and its programs.

Now that she is retired, she is playing the piano again and learning Spanish.

And she is ready to start teaching again. Already, she is leading workshops and interacting with students again.

“It’s that moment of gratitude,” she said. “Not that’s what it’s all about… But that moment of gratitude makes you think that what you did had some significance to them.”

Patrick Moran, Angela Moran and Pat Williams attended the 28th Annual Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner in 2016. The Naval Academy STEM Outreach Director, Angela Moran is retiring from the academy to work on a nonprofit she started with her husband, Patrick.
Patrick Moran, Angela Moran and Pat Williams attended the 28th Annual Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner in 2016. The Naval Academy STEM Outreach Director, Angela Moran is retiring from the academy to work on a nonprofit she started with her husband, Patrick. (Karen Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

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