CRANE, Ind. –
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) continues its partnership with the United States Naval Academy (USNA), more than doubling the number of midshipmen in internship positions from its first year.
This partnership between both NSWC Crane and USNA launched with five USNA midshipmen interns in 2019. Due to COVID-19, the program was on hold in 2020, but this past summer NSWC Crane grew the partnership to host 11 midshipmen in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) internships. Each midshipman participated in a three and a half week program.
Dr. Bryan Woosley, the University Liaison at NSWC Crane, says with the increase in participation, midshipmen were placed in a wider variety of roles across NSWC Crane’s technical expertise.
“We had midshipmen represented across all three mission areas: Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions, and Electronic Warfare,” says Dr. Woosley. “The midshipmen had exposure to a wide variety of technology at Crane and each worked on a project during their internship. This is part of a long-term effort to provide research opportunities and to help future naval officers understand the role Crane has in the larger Navy structure.”
Dr. Elizabeth Getto, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at USNA, says this partnership creates opportunities for the midshipmen.
“Our partnership with NSWC Crane and their generous support has been incredibly important for a midshipman’s professional and personal development,” says Dr. Getto. “Many of the interns this year had their internships cancelled last summer due to Covid-19 and were thrilled to be working on base. When I asked one student how it went, she immediately responded 'I want to work at Crane!' The hands on learning opportunities and opportunity to support the fleet are critical to keep them excited about engineering.”
The Naval Sea Systems Command includes more than 80 thousand civilian and military personnel across the country that design, build, deliver, and maintain U.S. Navy ships, submarines, and other systems.
Dr. Woosley says midshipmen receive unique insight into the ‘force behind the fleet’ during their internships at NSWC Crane, which is part of the broader NAVSEA enterprise.
“These future naval officers get a better understanding of the civilian navy workforce supporting them,” says Dr. Woosley. “As future leaders, knowing the civilian support of the uniformed service of the Navy helps them better understand the mission and how all of these pieces fit together.”
Midshipmen work alongside science and technology experts
The midshipmen’s projects provided value to the different technical groups at NSWC Crane. Dr. Jessica Sargent, a Materials Engineer at NSWC Crane, and Manda Schaeffer, a Branch Manager at NSWC Crane, work in Airborne Electronic Attack in Electronic Warfare and had five interns over the course of the summer.
“Jessica worked with several midshipmen as a mentor,” says Schaeffer. “The midshipmen are pretty sharp; they will be successful. It was great to help ensure they received exposure to different work at Crane so they better understand our capabilities.”
Midshipmen provided important insight as well as conducted tangible outputs in their research projects.
“During their time here, they hit the ground running,” says Dr. Sargent. “They cranked out testing and got it done. It’s beneficial to have their perspective of being midshipmen. They have insight we could use with the work we’re doing here to make solutions to problems in the fleet.”
Dr. Yunusa Balogun, a Materials Engineer at NSWC Crane, works in Undersea Sensors Engineering Branch of Strategic Missions.
“Many of the midshipmen have never come to the Midwest; this experience can be really eye opening,” says Dr. Balogun. “Our midshipmen interns had no prior experience in additive manufacturing before the start of their internship. However, with the mentorship of our engineering team, they learned how to model simple components, set up the printer, and finish up the 3D prints using polymers and ceramic feedstock.”
One of NSWC Crane’s developing capabilities includes the Underwater Launch Test Capability. Chris Valencia, the Lead Operations Planner of NSWC Crane’s Underwater Launch Test Capability, says having midshipmen in their group was rewarding to their efforts.
“The Underwater Launch Test Capability is relatively new,” says Valencia. “It’s also a one-of a kind facility and there won’t be another site like it in existence. We are building a large facility that will provide an underwater test capability for the Navy. With us being so new, it’s an opportunity to show the midshipmen how ‘the bagels are made’. In other groups midshipmen may be walking into projects that are up and running, whereas here they get to see how new capabilities are built.”
Valencia says the NSWC Crane team thought highly of the Naval Academy midshipmen.
“We work early in the morning, and they were ready to be here when we were,” says Valencia. “It speaks to the character of the midshipmen that were here. They were interested in the projects we were doing. I think they were surprised by the type of work we do at Crane. You might not think you’ll see such exciting stuff in the middle of Indiana.”
Valencia also says the Midshipmen were able to connect with the team in unique ways.
“Many on our operations team are prior military,” says Valencia. “We have someone who is a 30-year Master Diver, someone who became a captain in a Ranger battalion, another diver with more than 10 years of experience, and others with more than 10 years of military experience. It’s a huge mentoring opportunity for our team and to share with them our prior military experience. I remember being young and in the military – people didn’t really know there was an entire civilian force working for them. I think this gives midshipmen a better understanding of those back home who are supporting them when they are abroad.”
Doug Papenmeier, an Analytical Chemist at NSWC Crane, works in the Materials Analysis Branch, which supports primarily the Expeditionary mission area. Papenmeier says though the midshipmen had a limited time at NSWC Crane, they were able to work on interesting projects.
“They weren’t here long enough to be certified to work with explosives, but both midshipmen found areas where they could add value,” says Papenmeier. “Everyone in our group was impressed with them. They were serious, diligent, bright, and willing to learn. While they were here, they were exposed to variety of technologies. They got to see Crane’s state-of-the-art labs and work alongside technical professionals.”
Papenmeier adds the importance of learning Crane’s different capabilities.
“It may be helpful if these midshipmen encounter problems in 15 or 20 years in the fleet, they are now equipped with knowledge of Crane’s capabilities and can reach out to Crane for help to solve that problem,” says Papenmeier.
The midshipmen were not only conducting research alongside the technical experts at NSWC Crane -- they were also integrated into other peer student programs, like the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).
“The midshipmen were able to work alongside people taking a different path,” says Dr. Woosley. “They have the opportunity to interact with the current NSWC Crane workforce and potential peers in these programs.”
Continuing the research, continuing the partnership
The projects these midshipmen worked on during their summer internships didn’t necessarily ‘stop’ after the summer program itself ended. Valencia says one project a midshipman worked on will grow with their program.
“One midshipman compiled a searchable document featuring technology we were interested in spanning the last ten years of its development,” says Valencia. “This report will continue to grow and be utilized when additional information comes out for years to come. Another midshipman conducted a detailed technical analysis for essential operational hardware components that will be utilized at the Underwater Launch Test Site for years to come.”
One student’s efforts have led to Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) 219 investments.
“We had discussions with researchers at USNA that led to a mutually beneficial project,” says Dr. Balogun. “This led to NISE 219 funding for research that students came in to support. The students collected a lot of data, and proceeded to analyze the data.”
Another student is continuing the work he did during his NSWC Crane internship in his senior year at USNA as his capstone project.
“Dr. Tyler Churchill and I had a joint NISE 219-funded project that supported two midshipmen,” says Dr. Sargent. “For one midshipman, the work he did here will directly continue into his academic research for the coming year as a Trident Scholar. This means that even as NISE 219 funding ends with the fiscal year, collaboration on manuscripts and future research proposals for this work will continue between Crane and USNA in Fiscal Year 2022. The other student supported by this NISE 219 project will continue research at USNA that does not derive directly from this work but is closely related, and his work here at Crane translates well into knowledge and experience applicable to his capstone project.”
Dr. Getto says the research collaboration with NSWC Crane has continued as Logan Schoffstall was selected as a Trident scholar his senior year.
“He is examining the thermal and mechanical properties of irradiated 3D printed engineering polymers such as Nylon-12,” says Dr. Getto. “He and other midshipmen were able to work on the printing and irradiation of these samples over the summer. We look forward to continuing this collaboration including both internships and research for many years to come and are incredibly grateful for NSWC Crane's support of our midshipmen.”
Schaeffer says this partnership between NSWC Crane and USNA is just beginning.
“Our collaboration with USNA has grown over the years, including several opportunities to continue some research here at Crane, building connections with the professors, and growing our current research areas,” says Schaeffer. “This is a good relationship we are continuing to grow. Midshipmen get exposure to Crane and hands-on science. They leave knowing the passion our workforce has.”
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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