Inspiration can come from many places. For Jacoby Smith, inspiration came in the form of a computer science course and a discovered talent for teaching. He followed his innate passion for science and mathematics into a career with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) and dedicated himself to inspiring young minds to explore STEM fields.
Smith always showed great respect for the teaching profession, in part because his mother was a teacher. “When I was in school, I had wonderful teachers who really motivated me and encouraged me to pursue my interests in science and math,” Smith said. “I only had one computer science course, but I really enjoyed learning all the important concepts and applications.”
Smith understands the importance and impact of STEM-related domains on real-world endeavors. As a software engineer and scientist for Dahlgren’s Strategic and Computing Systems division, he supports the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System Program in developing new system capabilities, maintaining system operations, analyzing fleet data and delivering solution-based processes. “I write and test code, debug and debug, and help plan future features for the Missile Manager component of the Tomahawk program,” said Smith. He is also part of a department team that looks after new hires and interns, helping them adapt to the professional, dynamic and technical environment of Dahlgren’s workforce.
When the school administration offered students at Stafford High School the opportunity to teach an advanced computer science course virtually, Smith knew it was an opportunity to give back to his community and agreed to share his technical knowledge, experience and skills with the 25 to 30 high school students to share.
“As a native of Fredericksburg, I attended Stafford County Public Schools, and this was a great opportunity to get involved in STEM programs and help students further explore the core concepts of computer science,” Smith said.
While attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Smith worked as a teaching assistant and taught college courses related to computer science. He earned his Bachelors in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics in 2020 and soon after joined the NSWCDD staff.
With the encouragement and support of department and branch leadership, Smith began teaching the computer science course for Stafford High School and devoted countless hours to creating and integrating an accelerated curriculum for these students.
In addition to his work as a software developer and scientist, Smith has also found success in providing quality instruction to his students. Although the class was attending virtually due to COVID-19 protocol, Smith made sure the students were preparing for the exams. “I tackled it with no pre-packaged lesson plans or course studies, but managed to develop my curriculum, which I knew would cover all the key concepts,” Smith said. “It was important for me to provide these students with the technical knowledge they need to advance in computer science.”
Although Smith no longer teaches computer science classes for local school districts, he remains involved as an advisor in designing the science and math curriculum.
NSWCDD Command and Executive selected Smith as one of seven recipients of the Distinguished Community Service Award for his contributions, efforts, and dedication to providing instruction in computer science and working with local school officials in promoting STEM initiatives.