KING GEORGE, Va. – Rebeca Rodriguez dreamed one day that she would use chemistry as a mechanism for exploring the science of biological detection.
The University of Minnesota chemistry major’s dream became reality while interning this summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center via the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).
“I have been working to design a sensor for biological detection of bio-warfare agents,” said Rodriguez at the NREIP and Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP) presentation day on the campus of University of Mary Washington Dahlgren, July 25. “A lot of my research has been about the design of the actual sensor to be implanted using something called a field effect transistor sensor, which is a sensor that monitors slight changes of the surface based on voltage.”
Rodriguez – currently in her fourth year of graduate school – was one of 20 college and graduate students participating in the NREIP summer science program at NSWCDD who briefed their findings to attendees at the poster session event. In addition, 10 high school SEAP interns briefed their findings and answered questions about their technical projects.
The event marked the first combined NREIP and SEAP poster session sponsored by NSWCDD.
“The interns come to Dahlgren where they are assigned mentors and a project to work on for the next 8-10 weeks,” said NSWCDD Human Resources Recruiting Program lead Shelby Kahn, adding that the NSWCDD internship offers students an opportunity to network, go on tours, and explain their summer projects to the public during the final summer poster session presentation.
“The purpose of the programs (NREIP and SEAP) is to give students experience in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields,” said Kahn. “Most interns are high school students interested in going to college for a STEM field or they are already in college pursuing a STEM program. Sometimes they end up coming back, which is awesome.”
The goals of NREIP are to encourage participating college students to pursue science and engineering careers, to further education via mentoring by laboratory personnel and their participation in research, and to make them aware of DoN research and technology efforts, which can lead to employment within the Department of the Navy (DoN).
NREIP is providing competitive research internships to approximately 733 college students this year. Participating students spend ten weeks during the summer conducting research at 41 DoN laboratories.
The goals of SEAP are to encourage participating high school students to pursue science and engineering careers, to further their education via mentoring by laboratory personnel and their participation in research, and to make them aware of DoN research and technology efforts, which can lead to employment within the DoN.
SEAP is providing competitive research internships to 250 high school students this year. Participating students spend eight weeks during the summer doing research at 28 DoN laboratories.
At NSWCDD, NREIP intern Max Johnson, a University of Tulsa junior, spent his summer working with a software development team. “As a team, we worked on laser weapon control systems,” said Johnson.
University of Virginia junior Kimberly Louie spent her summer experimenting above the clouds using drone technology. “I love it,” said Louie. “I made a deck gun that was attached to the bottom of an interesting drone.”
Washington D.C. native and Liberty University student, Adam Dotson focused on a radar system uniquely named Spy-6 or Automated Spy-6 System Test Bot, which is essentially a drone system.
“We want to imitate people making decisions based on what we are trying to accomplish,” Dotson said. “We want to emulate the combat system using radar software that emulates the whole software system.”
The messages that are sent to the drone are parsed out and stored into a data base. Afterwards, the messages are reused and signals are built based on inventory. “We built this system using Python software because we want to add machine learning aspect to it,” Dotson said. “In short, we want human-like timing.”
James Madison University mechanical engineering student Carver Johnson takes the science of systems safety engineering very seriously. In his internship, Carver developed a new preliminary hazard round for the new rocket motor.
“My task was to identify causes, effect and hazards,” Carver said. “My end result was effects and that could be anything from damage to equipment, loss of a ship, and loss of personnel. System safety is all about prioritizing the Sailor.”
From a mentor’s perspective, the summer NREIP and SEAP program exposed students to numerous opportunities within the world of engineering and science. SEAP mentor Susan Bartyczak is a firm believer in the program, and hopes that students have the same opportunity that her student was given.
“It gave me an opportunity to influence rising college students with real life experiences that prepares them for future careers with the right frame of mind. Their internships will have real application in the long run.”