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NOAA Support of DOC’s 2023 National Youth Summit

Article and Figures Provided By ORTA/UxSRTO Team

Figure 1: NOAA staff Andrew Peck (ORTA) and Ken Vierra (ORTA) participate in the Department of Commerce’s 2023 National Youth Summit. (Photo Credit: NOAA).

On September 21, 2023, over 300 students and staff attended the 2023 National Youth Summit hosted by the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships within the Department of Commerce (DOC). The event, which took place at the Herbert C. Hoover Commerce Building (HCHB) in downtown Washington, D.C., focused on empowering and uplifting our nation’s youth between the ages of 12 and 30 and consisted of workshops on a variety of topics such as entrepreneurship, leadership, and climate resilience. The event also provided attendees with the opportunity to engage with senior leadership from the Department of Commerce and learn more about the ongoing work of different federal agencies. Following the presentations, the participants had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with NOAA staff members about their aspirations and career interests. 

NOAA’s Office of Research, Transition, and Application (ORTA) joined NOAA’s Office of Education in representing the agency during the event. ORTA, represented by Ken Vierra and Andrew Peck, set up a slideshow presentation highlighting the uncrewed systems in use at NOAA and how NOAA transitions innovative technologies into use.  The ORTA team also had a model uncrewed aircraft system on display.  NOAA’s Office of Education, represented by Alfonso Macias Tapia, Kayleen Torres, and NOAA VizLab’s Rafael DeAmeller, set up a virtual reality headset of Science on a Sphere.

Figure 2: NOAA Office of Education Alfonso Macias Tapia and Kayleen Torres talking to students while another student tries the Science on the Sphere virtual reality experience (Photo Credit: Rafael DeAmeller).

Both NOAA offices provided many informational handouts and informational materials, such as stickers and postcards with QR Codes to NOAA websites. To draw even more attention to NOAA’s displays, Ken Vierra brought along Ember, his K-9 Caring Angels Therapy Dog. Ember was a huge hit with the students and staff. When word spread that Ember was at the event, many HCHB staff also came to visit the NOAA display to pet Ember. 

Figure 3. Ember (ORTA) reporting for duty (& ready for pets!) at the event.

With Ember as a major draw, NOAA staff were able to interact with large numbers of attendees. Ember, a new member of ORTA’s outreach team and affectionately known as a “Living Teddy Bear,”  was certified by K-9 Caring Angels Therapy Dog Organization at 8.25 months old on July 2, 2023 and is one of the youngest Therapy Dogs to be trained. Her official AKC Registration Name is Pandora Haleakalā Glowing Ember and is the cousin to her predecessor Nikita, who was NOAA’s first Canine Ambassador

Figure 4. Ember checks out the other displays prior to arrival of the attendees, especially the NASA blow up globe and rocket.

The other organizations / partners that participated in the Department of Commerce 2023 Youth Summit included:

Figure 5: NOAA Office of Education and Office of Research, Transition, and Application (ORTA) left to right Rafael DeAmeller, Alfonso Macias Tapia, Kayleen Torres, Ember, Kenneth Vierra, and Andrew Peck (Photo Credit: NOAA).