CRANE, Ind. –
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division’s (NSWC Crane) Trusted Microelectronics (ME) Division partnered with Crane-area Washington High School’s (WHS) computer science and cybersecurity classes for a week-long pilot program in April 2021. During the program, three subject matters experts (SMEs) from NSWC Crane visited the classroom and engaged the students with interactive problem sets.
“Many parents, educators, and students throughout our Region don’t have any idea about the highly technical work that is performed at NSWC Crane,” said Angie Mann, Engagement and Strategy Lead for the Trusted ME Division and the pilot program’s manager. “We [NSWC Crane] don’t want to be the ‘best kept secret in the Navy’ anymore. We want students to have a better understanding about the type of work we perform and the skillsets required, so we provided them with direct contact with our professionals to tackle ‘real-world’ projects. Engaging students in these subjects early is key to developing a future highly skilled workforce.”
Three NSWC Crane scientists worked with WHS teacher Matthew Riney to develop lesson plans and projects that aligned Crane concepts with the corresponding classes of Cybersecurity, Computer Science Essentials, and Computer Science Principles. Dr. Austin Roach, Dr. Stephen Howell, and Dr. Adam Duncan were the Crane employees involved. Dr. Roach created lessons for the Cybersecurity class.
"The lesson I provided was meant to show cybersecurity principles applied to a network-connected cyber-physical system, something that can be controlled remotely,” said Dr. Roach. “I gave them a simplified system that served as a rocket launch controller, accessed over Bluetooth. They had to find cybersecurity flaws in the system, and then figure out how those flaws could be fixed in the design.”
Dr. Roach said he was pleasantly surprised to see all the different threats the students considered in their final presentations. He said they explored factors like phishing emails, the physical environment of the system, and supply chain issues.
“I hadn’t really led them in any of those directions with my lessons, but they went down those paths on their own,” said Dr. Roach. “It was a real treat seeing the ideas they came up with, and I think it was a useful exploration for them.”
Riney said the students enjoyed the lesson and benefitted from getting face time with industry professionals who live and work in southern Indiana. He said students expressed interest in STEM careers and careers at Crane in particular.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the Crane team for how much work they put into making this happen,” said Riney. “It was a really fun week for the students, and for myself. In my ten years of teaching, this was one of the best weeks I’ve had. We took surveys at the end, and 100 percent of students said they found it enjoyable.”
Trusted ME Division Manager Brian Stuffle said the effort aligns with NSWC Crane’s mission priorities.
“Trusted Microelectronics are critical components in many of today’s high reliability systems,” said Stuffle. “They provide a technological advantage for our warfighters and ensure that the systems they count on work as designed, when needed. The pilot program between the Trusted Microelectronics Division and WHS presented a unique opportunity to educate students about state-of-the-art technology in microelectronics and demonstrated that this is a key national leadership area that Crane engineers, scientists, and technicians support every day.”
The Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) strategy is to, “attract, inspire, and develop exceptional STEM talent across the education continuum to enrich our current and future DoD workforce to meet defense technological challenges.”
Mann said the Trusted ME division plans to work with NSWC Crane’s STEM program to continue developing this pilot and implement it at other schools.
“At the beginning of the week, we asked the students how much they knew about Crane and about our group specifically,” said Mann. “The answer was, ‘very little.’ But this week allowed us to spark an interest in our STEM careers in young people who might be our future Crane leaders.
Both Dr. Roach and Mann said getting to engage with the students with project-based learning was helpful.
“These are topics that are of great interest to us in the Navy,” said Dr. Roach. “They are oftentimes not covered in a traditional engineering education, so it was really exciting to see high school students already engaged in it. Cybersecurity touches all sort of disciplines – for example, a chemical engineer might work in a processing plant completely controlled by computers. It’s exciting that WHS has it in its curriculum.”
Stuffle said the students learned about the importance and criticality of Anti-Tamper technologies, hardware cybersecurity, and hardware assurance.
“All of these are areas of technical leadership at Crane, and it is our intent to help students recognize that Crane works with modern, state-of-the-art microelectronic technologies daily,” said Stuffle. “We hope it will inspire them and lead to a STEM pipeline for future generations of employees working on Trusted Microelectronics at Crane”.
About NSWC Crane
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.
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