WEST BETHESDA, Md. —
A student with this year’s group of Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP) interns at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division is creating a smartphone application in direct response to interest from Sailors in the fleet.
David Papermaster, a junior at Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, came aboard the West Bethesda, Maryland, headquarters for an eight-week apprenticeship June 27. He currently has a working prototype app running that can assist Sailors with instant access to U.S. Navy environmental protection information.
“They came to me with a paper reference guide tool and they said, ‘We need to make this easier. We want to make it easier to update; we want you to make this into an app.’” Papermaster said. “So I thought of the design and using past experience, made the functional application that we have so far.”
According to his supervisor Kiet Ung, team leader of the Hazardous Material and Pollution Prevention Afloat RDT&E Group (Code 634), he assigned this concept exploration to Papermaster because Sailors have told him and his colleagues they want to use this technology in their everyday work.
“The concept came from the bottom up,” Ung said. “When we go out there and talk to Sailors on the deckplates, they’re telling us, ‘Hey, 98 percent of us have this technology already. We use apps to solve other problems in life; let’s have a Navy app for things like this.’ Technology is moving at an incredible pace, but with this, we’re still sort of stuck in the Stone Age. What we use now is literally a paper reference guide. And we said, ‘Okay, this is an opportunity to develop this product.’”
Papermaster said he did not have experience in creating smartphone apps, but had enough of a baseline in writing computer code in school that he was able to get online and search for tutorials and training to fill in his knowledge gaps.
“This is a first-time thing for me,” Papermaster said. “I’m using this as a starting point to learn about app development. I’m also working with Michael White (in Carderock’sVisual Information Branch) to improve the app’s layout and design to make it look as good as possible.”
Papermaster said he has learned a lot about how the Navy manages waste during his time at Carderock, particularly during the hands-on work he requested to do in the Solid Waste Lab. This included creating plastic pucks in the Solid Waste Lab – the same kind made with plastic waste aboard Navy ships – and doing smell tests on odor barrier bags.
Peter Cheung, a mechanical engineer with Code 634, said these are the same bags used aboard submarines to store plastic waste because it cannot be discharged underway, and since a lot of that plastic has food contamination, it’s crucial to ensure the bags used are strong, odor-sealed and heat-sealed to maintain quality of life for the Sailors aboard that submarine.
“He has opened the bags several times – these bags have food in them and they’ve been out in the sun. He hasn’t had to deal with the smell yet. Maybe later on!” Cheung laughed.
Ung said when Carderock brings in new talent like Papermaster, passes on knowledge to them and embraces their ideas, it benefits both parties and embodies how the command has developed and used new talent for its century-plus in existence.
“This is our succession planning. What makes a place like this, with the reputation we’ve had and as long as we’ve had it, is the ability to bring in talents as early as the high school level and college,” Ung said. “They bring us skill sets that we middle-of-the-pipeline folks don’t have. If I engage with a contract to design and build this app, it’ll probably be a huge cost. Here, we can incubate an idea and bring it to NAVSEA at a lower cost.
“It’s a two-way street. We benefit and they benefit. We can also show them that working here is no different than going to school, except they pay to go to school. Here, people like David come in, acquire knowledge and solve problems, but unlike school, work pays them. So hopefully he’ll leave this place knowing if he goes out and works hard in school, he might be able to contribute to the Navy as a career in the future.”
Papermaster said he will also spend time with the Center for Innovation in Ship Design during his summer internship at Carderock since he is interested in design and has experience in computer sciences.
“I wanted to get a lot of experience in different fields to decide which one I want to get into in college and beyond, and that has definitely happened for me here,” Papermaster said. “It’s a good environment; I’ve had fun working here. I’d consider it in the future.”
Papermaster said he will work as hard as he can on the app with his time remaining aboard Carderock to continue to improve it before turning it over and resuming his education.