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NEWS | Aug. 8, 2023

NSWC IHD NETAP Students Heat Things Up in Summer Robotics Competition

By NSWC Indian Head Public Affairs Office

Twelve high school students with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division’s (NSWC IHD) Naval Energetics Technology Apprenticeship Program (NETAP) recently braved brutal temperatures during the program’s underwater robotics competition at the Naval Support Facility Indian Head’s Aquatics Center. The competition was the culmination of the high school students’ three-week summer internship with NSWC IHD.

NETAP provides students an opportunity to engage in a hands-on internship to develop their engineering skills. Over the course of this multi-week program, the students bolstered their tooling, soldering and programming skills by building miniature unmanned underwater vehicles. NETAP participants also received a $900 stipend to compensate for their time spent on the program.

“Having a high school STEM program is really valuable and gets kids engaged early,” said NSWC IHD Chief Technology Officer Kerry Clark, who helps oversee the program. “These students are exposed to real-world missions and are encouraged to not just apply their engineering skillsets, but also work collaboratively in teams to solve complex problems.”

The students divided into three teams and spent three weeks designing, programming and building an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that could maneuver under its own power. During the competition, each team raced their ROV between multiple challenges in the pool that tested control, speed, delivery, containment and recovery. Each of the challenges were designed to mirror actual U.S. Navy systems at NSWC IHD.

In addition to the competition, students submitted an engineering notebook to track their data and lessons learned and a final engineering report to summarize their accomplishments over the three-week internship. Notebooks and reports were scored along with each challenge of the competition to demonstrate their engineering processes.

Although the goal of the program is to challenge the young engineers with real-world naval scenarios, Clark explained that it is also critical to introduce students to a potential career in supporting NSWC IHD and the Department of Defense.

“You always have to consider succession plan for the retiring workforce,” she said. “What the NETAP allows us to do is engage and energize these students into potentially building their career here at the command. We’re training the next generation of Navy scientists and engineers, and it starts right here.”

For more information on the NETAP, please contact

NSWC IHD — a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, manufacturing and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.