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NEWS | Oct. 19, 2023

NSWCDD hosts successful first NEEC Student Day

By Madeline Thompson, NSWCDD Corporate Communications

A bright and chilly morning in Virginia made for the perfect setting as 43 students and 13 university faculty gathered from across the country at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) for the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) Student Day.

The NEEC program invites innovation and collaboration between the warfare centers and universities. The program inspires the joint development of technologies between students and universities with warfare center subject matter experts, and creates a pipeline to advance the mission and streamline resources.

Students and faculty from six schools traveled for exposure to NSWCDD’s broad capabilities, tying together research and technology. Schools in attendance were Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, Christopher Newport University, University of Texas at Arlington, Texas A&M University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

The full day of activities gave the students and faculty an up-close view of the facility, technologies and invited conversation with subject matter experts.

NSWCDD Deputy Chief Technology Officer and NSWCDD NEEC Director Karen Smith welcomed the group to the inaugural event. “What an incredible opportunity to network and learn. Your research directly ties into the hands-on research and development efforts we have here, which ultimately transition to our warfighters protecting our country. What an incredible thing it is to partner with you and your universities. There are so many opportunities and you are going to see and hear about today,” Smith said.

NSWCDD Technical Director Dale Sisson Jr., SES, briefed the group on why the mission is so imperative. “The challenges are greater than they have ever been in our lifetime,” Sisson said. “Threats exist all over the world, all of the time, so we need to be ready to deliver technically advanced products that prepare our warfighters for whatever may come.”

“Working on our mission is as important as it gets. You have the chance to come up with capabilities that enable us to fight and win every time, because in our business, second place is not an option,” said Sisson.

After a brief break, the group was invited to join NSWCDD representatives from all of the departments for a technical overview of capabilities and technologies. During this time, the group not only met with scientists and engineers to learn more about each department’s capabilities, but also with human resources representatives to discuss student programs and the Technology Office to further network and collaborate.

Students and faculty later heard from Josh Bockenek and Charles Hall, both alumni of the NEEC program.

Hall, of the Software Performance Analysis Branch within the Strategic and Computing Systems Department, is a 2021 Virginia Tech graduate. He spoke about NSWCDD’s positive environment and perks, which include mentoring, flexible schedules, job security and higher education opportunities.

Bockenek, of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapons and Guided Munitions Branch within the Integrated Engagement Systems Department, recently completed his doctorate at Virginia Tech.

Bockenek, who began his career NSWCDD six months ago, spoke about NSWCDD’s need for students at all levels of education.

Brooke Bowler, recruiting lead at NSWCDD, gave a brief overview of the student program opportunities. She also fielded questions regarding the programs.

“We don’t expect you to come to us with hands-on subject matter expertise,” Bowler said. “You are going to learn the systems and learn that expertise here. We want you to be driven. We want you to have a voice – a voice for yourself and a voice for the work you are doing.”

After lunch, students and faculty participated in a poster presentation session where students shared some of the research they conducted within NEEC. The group then took a tour of NSWCDD, including the Potomac River Test Range, the Hypersonic Integration and Test Facility and the Laser and Lethality Lab.

“I found this student day to be so helpful,” said Grace Walters, a junior computer science major at Christopher Newport University. “I enjoyed going from table to table learning about the different departments and what they do.”