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NEWS | March 18, 2022

NSWC Crane SEAP and SSEP intern competes at ONR HacktheMachine

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Julia Garrard started working at NSWC Crane as a summer intern in high school through the Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP). She works at NSWC Crane while pursuing a degree from Indiana University (IU) full-time for four years through the co-op STEM Student Employment Program (SSEP).

Last fall, Garrard recruited another IU student to participate in the HACKtheMACHINE: Unmanned competition. She says the team consisted of people from various technical backgrounds across NSWC Crane.

“The HACKtheMACHINE: Unmanned competition was a week-long combination Bug Bounty and Capture-The-Flag (CTF) national competition,” Garrard says. “As a team, we were tasked with hacking the military’s emerging unmanned pilot systems to discover new exploits and create high-end solutions to address these vulnerabilities. These solutions are directly integrated and utilized throughout the Navy.”

She says her team placed third against other highly-competitive teams from industry, academia, and military.

“As a team, we were tasked with hacking the military’s emerging unmanned pilot systems to discover new exploits and create high-end solutions to address these vulnerabilities,” says Garrard. “These solutions are directly integrated and utilized throughout the Navy. In this competition, it was a black box situation in that we had no previous knowledge or intelligence of the system. In order to be successful, we had to be creative and innovative in our attacks, which required us to map out the integrated system components, conduct code analysis and reverse engineering, and investigate and understand the communication protocols between machines.”

She says the event was challenging but worth the effort.

“My previous work has prepared me for such physical demands and technical challenges, as projects that deal with protecting the warfighter demand extra effort to complete our mission. Thus, on top of being a student, I was working 8+ hours a day on this competition. Moreover, it was a very collaborative and team-based environment, which again, is something I really enjoy. It required all skills our team members could muster to find innovative solutions and successfully apply them. I like critical thinking and developing new solutions, especially when it means I am keeping others safe with such developments.

Garrard says her experience in the STEM program led to further interest in those fields.

“When I first started at Crane, I was not originally working in Cybersecurity. I was very fortunate in that they were more than happy to allow me to ‘experiment’ with different substantive areas until I found the one that I really liked. I am really engaged with the branch that I am currently in, as it has provided me the opportunity to work on a lot of interesting and cool projects. I credit my Crane coworkers with nurturing my technical skills and professionalism. Specifically, my manager has given me the opportunity to prove myself and a platform to showcase my skills to Crane and our partners. I love the work I do at Crane, and the saying, ‘It takes a village,’ is undoubtedly true. People at Crane really do care about developing their young professionals and have a lot of resources to help you.”

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.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please connect with NSWC Crane Recruiting at this site - or email us at