Employees working at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) brought their children to work April 25, 2013to see how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills could help them acquire future careers needed by our nation.
The day's schedule began with NSWC PCD Executive Officer, Cmdr. Greg Brotherton describing to students the Warfare Center's mission spectrum.
"Our jobs are primarily focused on assuring our Navy can continue to operate in and around the earth's coastal areas, whether that means accessing an adversary's beachfront or defending domestic and/or allied shorelines," said Brotherton. "To do any of these missions, our country's Navy has to be a mobile, expeditionary Fleet. Our country's Navy is a highly and technologically-advanced global force for good. Many of your parents are working in some area regarding research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) to support this mission spectrum."
Students like Hannah Simmons received a firsthand look at NSWC PCD's Landing Cushion Air Craft (LCAC), a hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy to execute missions that help empower the U.S. Navy to accomplish the many expeditionary missions described by Cmdr. Brotherton.
"We haven't gotten into the LCAC's cockpit yet, but Dad's told us a lot about how this hovercraft serves the Navy; that it's sort of like the U.S. Navy's workhorse," said Hannah Simmons, an eighth-grade student.
NSWC PCD Expeditionary Systems Branch Head for Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Navigation (C4N) Greg Simmons, having spent a great deal of his career working with the Warfare Center's RDT&E LCAC projects, described some of the hovercraft's unique characteristics.
"The Navy uses the LCAC as a connector to transport all the Marine equipment from the amphibious ships to their destination shorelines, whether that entails using them for humanitarian assistance missions or getting our Marines from ship to shore," said Greg Simmons.
First-grader Maya Collica said she never realized that Navy doctors had to do operations while at sea until she stepped down from the NSWC PCD Biodynamics Laboratory motion simulator, currently configured to emulate different sea states so Navy researchers can assess feasibility studies on conducting medical procedures aboard Navy ships.
Naval Support Activity Panama City's Site Manager Al Collica chaperoned his daughter Maya Collica for a ride aboard the Electronic Simulation Table, part of NSWC PCD Biodynamics Laboratory. Human Systems Integration Team Safety Observers Jeff Kiser and Ashley Catlin were stationed to assist all children ascend, ride and descend safely while experiencing a short simulation experience aboard NSWC PCD Biodynamics Laboratory motion simulator.
"I got to see what it would feel like to be a doctor taking care of sick people on a ship moving around on the ocean," Collica said.
Human Systems Integration Team Lead Eric Pierce said the ten-foot by ten-foot six-degree-of-freedom motion platform is designed to emulate the roll, pitch, yaw, surge, sway and heave of boats and ships steaming over the ocean's surface.
"This simulator is a Stewart platform. People and devices placed on the top plate can be moved in this six degrees of freedom in which it is possible for a freely-suspended body to move. It has a 5,500 pound capacity, which means we have considerable flexibility in what we can test," said Pierce. "Four video cameras capture occupant response to motion, and use video tagging software to help quantify data elements of interest, such as number of errors during a task."
And of course, a tour of NSWC PCD wouldn't be complete without letting students get hands-on time driving small robots. Senior Systems Engineer for Unmanned Systems Technology Steve Castelin helped instruct young students on how to drive mine countermeasures robots with a laptop computer and X-Box™ controller.
"The Warfare Center is researching advanced ways of controlling individual robots and groups of robots," said Castelin. "We're looking for ways to make robots react with more intelligence. The robots the kids are controlling today are outfitted with an arm and a camera to be used for inspection. For example, we might need to look inside a vehicle to see if it had an improvised explosive device inside of it; or, it could be used to remotely be driven up to a building to look inside the window without having to put a human in harm's way."
When Hannah Simmons was asked what she thought about the skills needed to accomplish building this type of robot, she said the work looked fun.
"I think it would be fun to build an automated car-like robot, "Simmons said. "I haven't been able to do it yet, but I think this kind of work would be fun to do."
So, was Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at NSWC PCD a success in showing students how important it is for them to learn STEM skills in school? A thank you note from a participating parent about this year's program was a telling indicator. John Brady, a parent who works as a network engineer supporting NSWC PCD, wrote a letter of praise concerning this year's program and its impact on his children.
"The agenda was truly outstanding and covered a vast amount of things on base and as a contractor working full time on base, it was a great opportunity for my children," said Brady. "My children are at ages eight and 11-years-old and said they saw many things throughout the day they would remember…. I am sure their teachers will get an ear full this morning about what NSWC PCD builds and designs to protect the war fighter and our country. This really struck home to them because they have a cousin, Jake, who is deployed to Afghanistan. One phrase rang out loud and clear after the day's program was over and that was, ‘Hoo-hah Jake and Hoo-hah America!"