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CHIPS Articles: Inside the ONR Internship Program

Inside the ONR Internship Program
Encouraging students to pursue careers in STEM disciplines
By Retired Navy Capt. George Galdorisi, Victoria Anderson, Matthew Siordia, Ashley Nekoui and Amanda George - June 8, 2012
"We will win—or lose—the next series of wars in our nation’s laboratories."

- Then Vice Admiral James Stavridis, "Deconstructing War," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 2005

In line with Admiral Stavridis' message, the Navy has invested a great deal of time and effort into developing its base of future scientists, engineers and Sailors. From elementary school outreach through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, to apprentice and awards programs in high schools, the Navy has worked to encourage and reward young learners to continue to build the scientific skills that Navy labs rely upon. In this same vein, the Office of Naval Research has instituted a number of various high school, undergraduate and graduate summer internship programs that provide future scientists with a hands-on contribution to the naval lab system. It is vital to the Department of the Navy that we continue to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM disciplines. The need for personnel in these critical fields continues to rise while the actual number of U.S. citizens pursuing these degrees declines.

As the Navy's premier research and development laboratory, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific is pleased to provide a progressive learning environment to high school and college students through ONR's Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) and Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP). SSC Pacific has been fortunate to have participated in the SEAP and NREIP programs for the past 10 years, beginning in 2002. The center is one of only four laboratories on the West Coast that offers these programs.

During their time at SSC Pacific, interns work alongside STEM professionals, exploring projects in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). Throughout their internships students have the opportunity to learn from field trips, weekly technical presentations and participation in various activities, and then to present their work during an all-hands poster presentation.

Both SEAP and NREIP are important to SSC Pacific. Personnel here enjoy being able to share their knowledge with the interns. It's a mutually beneficial relationship because the work that interns do provides relevance to their coursework once they return to school. SSC Pacific is very proud that we have hired 27 NREIP interns on a permanent basis after they graduated from college.

While the majority of SSC Pacific's interns were embedded in the technical codes working on myriad scientific and engineering projects, two interns, one from NREIP and one from SEAP, had the unique experience of seeing how a Navy lab works from a management perspective. The two interns, Victoria Anderson and Matthew Siordia, worked in SSC Pacific's Corporate Strategy Group, providing tactical information gathering services to SSC Pacific’s senior leadership team. Their experiences provide a unique perspective into the internship program at SSC Pacific, as wells as a look at the overarching Navy goals accomplished by the ONR internship program.

SEAP Intern: Victoria Anderson

I was a SEAP intern summer 2011 with the Corporate Strategy Group (CSG) for the second year in a row. Last year, I was going into my junior year in high school, and just applied by chance because of an email my school sent out to all the students. This year, now a high school senior, I applied once again for the ONR funded internship, and once again was accepted. This year, I applied because I enjoyed my experience last year and thought I could not only benefit again from working with the CSG's team of analysts but also provide the CSG with some of my own knowledge and input.

Both of my summers at SPAWAR were filled with blogging. The CSG provides SPAWAR’s leadership with the most important and relevant daily, weekly, and monthly news to enhance the situational awareness of SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific. My role in the CSG was to make sure the center was able to maintain an information dominance edge by taking over some blogging quotas while some of the team members were out on leave over the summer. While my first year was more of a learning experience and I was closely guided by my mentor, since I wasn’t yet 17 and therefore couldn’t have a CAC (Common Access Card).

My second summer was much more independent, and I was able to help give the center the information dominance edge it needed. Along with the blogging, came parsing. If I noticed a blog on our site that seemed relevant to a certain group or person, I would make the information more easily accessible and provide them with an in-depth blog. Other support I gave to the CSG throughout my two summers was divided into many tasks such as: providing editorial support for CSG White Papers prior to submission to leadership, maintaining the administrative briefcase, updating the WIKI, assisting business administrators in planning and preparing weekly/monthly center-wide meetings, and preparing a CSG on-board binder with my fellow CSG intern.

This year, the CSG received two of the 60 NREIP and SEAP interns SSC Pacific accepted. Most of these other interns worked on projects that were more engineering, science or technology based, like Julia Roche and Dane Barland who both worked in the robotics lab at SSC Pacific this summer. Julia has been working with the robotics outreach program to create a sort of template or “care package” for the lab that includes posters, worksheets and workshops for the students who use the program. Julia has been able to provide the outreach team with so much support, that she has been invited to help out with the events; for example, she helped organize "Girls Day Out" and "Expanding your Horizons."

Dane's project was building a lightweight, collapsible throwbot design that will be a cost effective way for Soldiers to search for IEDs (improvised explosive devices). Dane's prototype is small enough for a Soldier to carry in his pocket, and unfolds when you want to use it. He said his bot can drive over rough terrain and even climb stairs. [It is] is remote-controlled by a Soldier and comes equipped with a camera that relays a video feed back to the controller.

All the interns not only experience firsthand what it is like to work in a government office with hands-on experience doing what we love, the internship programs also took us on tours of SPAWAR and Navy destroyers, as well as provided a venue for us to hear some of the scientists and engineers of SPAWAR tell us about their projects. The SEAP program is a great way to get exposed to government work and having this experience has not only expanded our knowledge in the specific field we worked in, but also gave all the high school students a valuable experience to have on our resume.

NREIP Intern: Matthew Siordia

As a graduate student pursuing a master's in international affairs and economics, the Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program (NREIP) seemed outside of my field of expertise. Reading the description of the program and where interns would work conjured up the idea of lab coats and computer programs, but upon arriving at SSC Pacific this was not the case for me. I was assigned to the Corporate Strategy Group where I would support the staff in carrying out strategic analysis. The CSG’s analysis varies from topics like cybersecurity to the Middle East and allows the senior leadership to make informed decisions.

Over the last 10 weeks I have been tasked with various duties ranging from daily blogging to provide situation awareness to the center, to briefing the executive director, commanding officer, and other senior leadership at the monthly Strategic Planning Meeting (SPM). The blogs I wrote discussed various topics but the Middle East thread is the one that became a focal point. I, along with another member of the CSG, was tasked with providing weekly updates on events in the Middle East and to begin to connect the dots and discuss the implications of the Arab Spring on the center and the Navy. A month before the August SPM, I was tasked with presenting a brief that outlined the significant events of the Arab Spring, how the center is involved in the region, and how these events could impact the center and Navy writ large.

By far, the briefing I gave at the August SPM was the most challenging, rewarding, and insightful project I have yet to work on. Coming into the internship, I did not think I would be tasked with such an important role but was more than willing to get involved in this area, after all strategic analysis is one field that I am pursuing a career in. The most challenging part of putting together this brief was to understand where SPAWAR and SSC Pacific fit into the grand scheme of things. Through this project, I was able to place the work of the center into the context of the Navy's pursuit of information dominance, and the larger Department of Defense’s strategic plans.

Throughout the internship, I have had the opportunity to go to a number of technical presentations that demonstrated the work that is done at SPAWAR and several field trips that showcased the products that SPAWAR provides to the Navy. One of the most beneficial field trips we took was to the USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) because we got to see first-hand the systems that SPAWAR is involved in and how they are actually implemented. In addition to the technical presentations and field trips, I was also able to learn what types of research other interns were doing at the center. One project several of my fellow interns worked on this summer was the Unmanned Vehicle (UV) Sentry program. This project is on the cutting edge of unmanned system integration and is a perfect example of how SPAWAR is seeking to support the warfighter and provide the United States with cutting edge technology.

SIDE BAR

SSC Pacific hosts ONR Summer Internship Programs

As the Navy's premier research and development laboratory, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific is pleased to provide a progressive learning environment to high school and college students through the Office of Naval Research’s Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) and Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).

The SEAP program is an eight-week long internship for high school students and takes place during their summer break. Students should have a strong interest in science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM) if they are considering this program.

Interns that are accepted into the NREIP program will spend 10 weeks at a participating lab of their choice, working on projects related to the majors that they are currently pursuing in college. The NREIP program is available to students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Students in both the SEAP and NREIP programs receive stipends for their time.

For more information on the SEAP program, visit: http://seap.asee.org/.

For more information on the NREIP program, visit: http://nreip.asee.org/.

Amanda George, Matthew Siordia and Danielle Eipp
Amanda George, Matthew Siordia and Danielle Eipp

Victoria Anderson and Rachel Volner
Victoria Anderson and Rachel Volner
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