DAHLGREN, Va. –
Inspiration can come from many places. For Jacoby Smith, inspiration came in the form of a computer science class and a discovered talent for teaching. He followed his innate passion for science and mathematics into a career at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) as well as becoming involved in inspiring young minds to explore STEM fields.
Smith always displayed an immense respect for the teaching profession partly because his mother was a schoolteacher. “I had wonderful teachers when I was in school that really motivated and encouraged me to pursue my interests in science and mathematics,” said Smith. “I had only one computer science class, but I really enjoyed learning about all the key concepts and applications.”
Smith understands the significance and impact STEM-related fields have in real-world efforts. As a software developer and scientist for the Strategic and Computing Systems Department at Dahlgren, he supports the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System Program in developing new system capabilities, maintaining system operations, analyzing fleet data and providing solution-based processes. “I write and test code, investigate and resolve bugs and help plan future capabilities for the Missile Manager component of the Tomahawk program,” stated Smith. He is also part of a departmental team that oversees new hires and interns, assisting with acclimating them to the professional dynamic and technical environment of Dahlgren’s workforce.
When school administrators presented an opportunity to teach an advanced computer science class virtually to students at Stafford High School, Smith knew it was a chance to give back to his community and agreed to share his technical knowledge, experience and skillset with the 25 to 30 upperclassmen.
“As a Fredericksburg native, I attended Stafford County Public Schools, and this was a great way to become involved with STEM programs and help students further explore computer science core concepts,” reflected Smith.
While attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Smith worked as a teaching assistant, providing instruction for college courses related to computer science. He earned his bachelor’s in computer science and applied mathematics in 2020, joining the NSWCDD workforce soon after.
With the encouragement and support of department and branch leadership, Smith began teaching the computer science course for Stafford High School, dedicating countless hours to creating and incorporating an accelerated curriculum for those students.
In addition to performing his duties as a software developer and scientist, Smith also thrived in providing top-quality instruction to his students. Although the class attended virtually due to COVID-19 protocol, Smith ensured the students’ preparations for examinations. “I went into this without any pre-set lesson plans or course study but managed to develop my curriculum that I knew would cover all the key concepts,” Smith said. “It was important that I provided these students with the technical knowledge necessary to move forward in computer science.”
Although Smith no longer teaches computer science classes for local school districts, he stays involved by acting as a consultant when shaping science and mathematics course curricula.
NSWCDD Command and senior leadership selected Smith as one of seven recipients of the Distinguished Community Service Award for his contributions, efforts and dedication to providing educational instruction in computer science and collaborating with local school officials in furthering STEM initiatives.