NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD —
When Dan Stanley was 10 years old, his parents’ coffee maker stopped working. After trying to repair it, he plugged it back in . . . only for it to catch on fire.
Far removed from those humble beginnings, this Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Supervisory Mechanical Engineer now solves some of the most complex problems for the U.S. Navy Fleet, and was recognized as a Federal Engineer of the Year by the National Society of Professional Engineers at a Feb. 22 ceremony in Washington D.C. “It was a combination of humbling and exciting at the same time, to be recognized at that level,” he said. “Knowing that my work at NNSY was significant enough to warrant this type of recognition was very satisfying.”
A key contributor to Stanley earning this award was his work last year leading the design, implementation and execution of a unique cleanliness flush for a critical shipboard air system. Approached by the project leadership, Dan and his engineering team were challenged with coming up with a solution to the ongoing cleanliness issue threatening the project’s end game. “There was a window of opportunity in the schedule to do something and the status quo repair methods were not effective. We needed to think out of the box for a solution to the problem,” he said.
So this Code 265 Submarine Mechanical/Piping Branch Head got to work researching and brainstorming. Ping-pong balls to agitate the pipe internals were considered, but those ran the risk of getting stuck in the complex runs of piping. Using an abrasive grit threatened to leave sediment within the ship’s system, ultimately risking further damage to shipboard components. Chemical cleaning products were evaluated and determined to be either ineffective of removing the corrosion or deemed detrimental to the ship’s system. Fortunately, Stanley is the type of engineer who thrives on finding creative solutions under constraints. “Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies for a reason,” he said. “The goal of an engineer is to solve problems. At the shipyard, a lot of times there’s not a clear answer because X, Y and Z items have to be taken into consideration—it could be a matter of schedule, material or something else.”
Dan’s “eureka moment” came when he decided to pursue an ice flush. Using water as the flushing medium, ice would be introduced to act as an abrasive that could scour the piping interior to remove corrosion that was being introduced into the system’s air stream. Using ice eliminated the concern of leaving material in the ship’s system after the flush was completed.
Using water and ice to clean a pipe may sound simple in theory; less so when you consider Stanley had to find a way to facilitate this concept to clean a complex piping system with multiple turns and diametrical changes over a hundred feet of length. “It was a very complex situation, trying to engineer through a process on the fly that had never been done before.”
The ice flush process required approximately 2,000 lbs. of ice to execute approximately 40 shots of what Stanley described as having the effect of a “shotgun blast” within the ship’s piping. Following the flushing process, the system was restored and the shipyard was able to complete all required operational testing.
“An effective leader within the Engineering and Planning Department must have the ability to accurately decipher technical problems and produce complete, accurate, and detailed resolutions that are understandable to individuals with various levels of technical knowledge,” said Code 260 Mechanical/Piping Division Head Steve Gogniat. “Mr. Stanley has demonstrated this ability for systems under his cognizance and is recognized as a leader at driving technically sound decisions on complex issues.”
Reflecting on what he likes about his job, Stanley said, “I enjoy the fact that there is an element of unpredictability to each of my days due to Code 265 supporting multiple submarine availabilities here at NNSY, Naval Station Norfolk, [Nuclear Power Training Unit] Charleston and [Trident Refit Facility] Kings Bay. I also enjoy the fact that I am usually involved in the resolution of complex engineering problems including troubleshooting operations and first time repairs, especially considering the unique position the current U.S. Navy Fleet is in.”
Stanley added, “My mom likes to say I’ve come a long way from that coffeepot.”