STAFFORD, go. –
After navigating the aisles full of three-dimensional printers and advanced computer labs, senior Topside systems engineer Robert Fowler arrived in a student hall eager to hear how virtual reality (VR) is positively affecting the mission. of the fleet.
“It’s important to spark interest in STEM and show young people what their role can be and how they can make a difference,” Fowler said. “I was lucky to have some influential people who opened their eyes when I was young, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to help students realize their contribution.”
On August 5, engineer from the Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWCDD) visited the Cyber Bytes Foundation’s “Build Your Own VR” summer camp in Stafford. During the camp’s weekly “lunch and learn” event, Fowler gave campers ages 13-18 an insight into how RV is deployed to help train, design, and model efforts that support combat.
The event was the product of an Educational Collaboration Agreement (EPA) recently established between NSWCDD and the Cyber Bytes Foundation. Signed on July 26, 2021, the EPA with the Cyber Bytes Foundation is one of the newest agreements established by NSWCDD. EPAs allow NSWCDD to collaborate with educational agencies, colleges, universities, and nonprofits dedicated to improving STEM education.
Expertise in virtual reality, along with a track record of research in technical areas involving surface naval warfare systems, positioned NSWCDD as an ideal contributor to the Cyber Bytes Foundation’s STEM initiatives.
Despite the recent creation of the agreement, the aptitude of the students and their relevant research interests, such as virtual reality, allowed for immediate participation after the agreement.
“We were thrilled that NSWCDD STEM Outreach could participate in the Cyber Bytes Foundation’s recent summer camp for virtual reality,” said Kyle Lackinger, NSWCDD’s Director of Collaborative Innovation and Academic Engagement. “Through STEM outreach events like this, our scientists and engineers concretize these technology-focused skills by providing real-world examples of their application and utility. We look forward to a continued commitment to the Cyber Bytes Foundation and its students. “
After a brief introduction to senior engineering and the day-to-day running of his department, Fowler led a presentation that explored how the RV can support the fleet by assisting in the design of new ships, modernizing existing ships, and modeling new capabilities.
Fowler also introduced teens to RV use cases that are already deployed, such as virtual boat controls, a practice especially prominent during COVID-19 protocols.
Directly after his presentation, Fowler opened the floor for questions and the teens happily seized the opportunity. Fowler said he was surprised by the level of vision the teens presented.
“They asked really good questions,” Fowler said. “I was glad to hear the questions that came to me, especially those related to how the RV will be a game-changing capability for the Navy.”
With the implementation of new technologies such as virtual reality, the challenges in adoption are inevitable. One student asked how Fowler anticipates the Navy may overcome aversion to adopting virtual reality for additional use cases.
He replied, “This is one of the challenges we hope all of you (the next generation of sailors) can help us solve.”