Rising 9th grader Emma Miller’s love of science and math began early.
Over the years, the Valley View student found ways to foster that love, including joining the school district’s math team and participating in the school’s Science Olympiad and Envirothon.
A visit to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland with her family three years ago also inspired her.
“I was blown away by the facilities and wanted to learn more about what the United States Naval Academy had to offer,” she said in an email. “My grandfather used to tell me stories about his trips around the world with the Navy but this visit sparked my interest even more.”
After returning home from the visit, the then-sixth grader, the daughter of Renee and James Miller, began researching the Naval Academy and decided she wanted to attend college there. In December, she learned about the prestigious science, technology, engineering and math camp the academy holds for high schoolers each summer.
“Applications opened up on January 6 ... and I applied that day,” she said. “I filled out questions pertaining to the classes that I take at school, activities I enjoyed doing in my free time and health and contact information. Later that night, I received a confirmation email to verify my application was complete.”
Emma waited for weeks to hear if the academy’s camp would pick her. The Naval Academy received about 4,000 applications to the camp, according to U.S. Naval Academy Office of Admissions STEM Program Coordinator, Yetanda Massey. Only 280 spots are available for each camp session.
While sitting in math class one day in mid-February, Emma received a text message from her mother, telling Emma to check her email.
“It was my acceptance email to the USNA Summer STEM,” Emma said. “That truly was amazing news to hear.”
With the coronavirus pandemic, the Naval Academy’s summer camp was held virtually. The change didn’t dampen her enthusiasm, however.
“We did many cool things during the camp,” Emma said. “I participated in many virtual scavenger hunts and learned about the history of the academy. I also learned about what life is like as a midshipman in the Navy and met many people including lieutenants (who) graduated from the academy.”
Additionally, Emma toured two Smithsonian museums, virtually of course, and learned about and used cryptology, the writing and deciphering of secret messages. She also built a parachute and programmed a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors on the computer by typing words and code into my computer live with other students on her team.
Emma came in first in the Cybersecurity, Engineering Design and Programming Challenge. Her prize? An assured seat at the 2021 summer camp.
“We are so proud of her,” Renee Miller said.
In addition to next year’s camp, Emma is looking forward to beginning ninth grade at Valley View High School, where she’s already selected several electives to further her knowledge of STEM subjects.
In addition to exploring science, math, engineering and technology, Emma is a member of the cross country team and plays basketball and softball. She hopes to join some varsity sports in the upcoming school year. After high school, she wants to attend USNA to study robotics and control engineering.
“Along with providing amazing challenges and activities for me to complete, I learned about college majors and how far STEM could actually take me at the camp,” Emma said. “Who knows, maybe I will actually end up being a rocket scientist.”
Emma also has some advice for other students interested in exploring STEM subjects: Involve yourself in those subjects in any way you can.
“Many school districts are creating bigger STEM programs and can offer you numerous opportunities to learn about STEM and see what you like to do,” she said. “It is also good to get involved in extracurricular activities that you enjoy. Extracurricular activities involving STEM are everywhere. You can also research STEM activities and do them at home.”