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NSWC Crane collaborates with Purdue and a UK-based university to provide tailored, advanced education to workforce

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | Aug. 26, 2019

CRANE, Ind. – “These are not your average college courses. This is a hard-hitting, relevant advanced-degree program that drives home specific defense engineering and technology skills necessary for the professional development of the workforce,” says Adam Parsley, a Division Manager at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane).

Purdue University and Cranfield University have partnered to support the Department of Defense (DoD) by developing a tailored Master’s Degree program at NSWC Crane. The jointly delivered, or dual Master’s Degree, will be in Defense Engineering and Technology with a concentration in Expeditionary Warfare once officially finalized. Purdue and Cranfield Universities signed a Memorandum of Agreement in October of 2018 to deliver the program. Purdue recently completed its first offerings this summer – a course on Data Science and Analytics and a course titled Science and Engineering of Energetic Materials. This collaboration between NSWC Crane, Purdue, and Cranfield is an innovative approach to fill a workforce development need.

“Scientists and engineers learn fundamentals in their undergraduate work, but they have no experience applying that knowledge directly to defense systems,” says Parsley. “When new engineers come to work at NSWC Crane, it could be their first time applying principles of heat transfer to ammunition or weapon design, or applying physics of semiconductors to night vision sensors. With this Dual Master’s Degree, that fundamental science and engineering knowledge is refined and sharpened in these highly relevant and applied courses.  Students gain insight on the science and math at work in defense technology, development work of the past, and potentially where to head with new research. ”

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Crane, located in the heart of landlocked, southern Indiana, is one of ten Warfare Centers across the country and the only federal lab in the Hoosier state. NAVSEA, with a force of 74 thousand personnel, engineers, builds, buys, and maintains the U.S. Navy’s ships, submarines, and their combat systems. Of the many roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Navy, one of NSWC Crane’s mission areas is to support the Navy in Expeditionary Warfare.

Focused on agility, maneuverability, individual weapons, munitions, and technical training, Crane’s Expeditionary Warfare Center equips the most elite warriors for the combat environment. With more than one million square feet of office and laboratory space, Crane provides a distinct advantage in sensors and communications, mobility, and special munitions, and weapons.

NSWC Crane is a top employer in the state with a workforce of more than three thousand, 73 percent consisting of scientists, engineers, and technicians. Crane’s workforce includes more than 600 Master’s and over 100 Doctorate Degrees.

Parsley, who helped lead this dual Master’s initiative for Crane, says there are significant advantages to combining the expertise of Purdue and Cranfield to further the education of Crane’s workforce.

“Purdue is a global leader in engineering and technology and Cranfield leads in defense engineering,” says Parsley. “This program really allows our workforce to continue their STEM education, hone their technical skills, and be better prepared to tackle current and future challenges the warfighter faces.”

Cranfield University is a United Kingdom-based postgraduate university focused on technology and management. Dr. Amer Hameed, the Director, Cranfield Defence and Security—Technology and professor in Defence Engineering for Cranfield University, says the institution offers specialized programs in defense engineering.

“Cranfield is a university that has defense in its DNA,” says Dr. Hameed. “The advantage of this program is you have two leading universities working together which will provide the engineering fundamentals from Purdue, while the system level development engineering and concept specifics will come from Cranfield.”  

Dr. Hameed says Cranfield specifically designs courses to provide solutions to real-world problems.

“Our courses are continuously updated based on evolving threats and technologies to counter those threats,” says Dr. Hameed. “As a result, the engineering and technology taught and included in our coursework are supported by real-life, operational examples.”

Dr. Stephen Beaudoin is a Professor in the Davidson School of Engineering and the Director of Purdue Energetics Research Center at Purdue University. He has also helped lead this dual Master’s program at Crane.

“By combining Cranfield’s tremendous expertise with that of Purdue’s, students get a very broad experience in theoretical, conceptual, practical, and applied science and engineering – the whole spectrum,” says Dr. Beaudoin. “For example, students can learn about munitions from a Cranfield course and about the energetics of those munitions from Purdue. This partnership provides a unique opportunity to learn critical skills in Defense Engineering and Technology.”

Dr. Beaudoin explains the program was created to meet NSWC Crane’s needs. In order to support Crane in their national security mission, Purdue organized faculty and tailored coursework in several unique ways to best support Crane’s workforce.

“The partnership with Cranfield is unique, but Purdue made other adjustments to support Crane,” says Dr. Beaudoin. “All of the courses align with Crane’s Expeditionary Warfare Mission Area. We’ve also brought in the diverse expertise from across Purdue. This interdisciplinary program, although heavily STEM focused, involves faculty and coursework from all colleges at Purdue. The mode of instruction is also unique – we mobilized faculty to go to Crane and teach in an active way; students aren’t just sitting and taking notes for eight hours. We also organized the coursework to take place in one week in a flexible degree format to meet the needs of the individual student.”

Parsley says that the design of the courses was critical to support Crane’s mission.

“For a typical advanced degree, an employee may be offsite for an extended period of time,” says Parsley. “We needed our workforce here at Crane to execute the mission for the warfighter. With this program, they don’t have to go to campus for a year or take night classes. They can make time for a weeklong course. It may be rigorous, but it’s the right combination of time spent learning and time spent executing their job.”

Doreen Gonzalez-Gaboyan, the Associate Director for Workforce Engagement and NSWC Crane Project Director at Purdue Polytechnic Institute, says the dual degree program is the culmination of a yearlong effort. Gonzalez-Gaboyan led the collaboration for Purdue, which included focus groups and summits to determine the courses, schedule, and learning outcome.

“Purdue has given its commitment to Crane to support its efforts related to national security,” says Gonzalez-Gaboyan. “This program is the first of many courses that Purdue faculty will be teaching at WestGate related to degreed programming. It is the intent that Purdue faculty will continue customizing education programming – the Expeditionary Warfare is the first of many majors that will fall under the Masters in Defense Engineering and Technology Degree.”

Gonzalez-Gaboyan says taking these undergrads to a master’s level is an academic achievement.

“As Indiana’s land-grant university, it is Purdue’s mission to educate Hoosiers and the workforce,” says Gonzalez-Gaboyan. “This education will enable, empower, and equip talented people and create a sustainable talent pipeline. This technically rigorous workforce will become more technically rigorous, and this is instrumental for national security.”

The dual Master’s program sparks collaboration for the students across the DoD. Chris Shaffer, an Engineer at NSWC Crane, participated in recent Cranfield course. He says the course fills a need.

“The impact reaches beyond Crane,” says Shaffer. “In the Light Weapon Design by Cranfield, we had students from other services and other warfare centers. Students get to know the equipment, and the better they understand what the equipment is used for, the better they’ll be able to support the warfighter.”

Parsley says this is just the beginning.

“Now that this program has launched, there could be future research and development opportunities as well as an expansion of the program beyond Expeditionary. There’s a lot more to be done, but we’ve laid the groundwork for future success.”

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.