Monday, August 14, 2017

USNA Welcomes Parents of the Class of 2021 for Plebe Parents’ Weekend

Thousands of family members and friends filled the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), Aug 11, for Plebe Parents’ Weekend. 

Plebe Parents’ Weekend, August 10-13, provides an opportunity for parents to reunite with their plebes (freshmen) after an intensive six weeks of Plebe Summer training that paves the way to a midshipman's freshman year at USNA.

It has been six weeks since they said goodbye to their sons and daughters and turned them over to the upper-class midshipman detailers for Plebe Summer training.

“Just after that first phone call, he was already different,” said Amy Brothers, mother of Midshipman 4th Class Graham Brothers. “His voice was different, the way he spoke was different. He went from being a mumbling teenager to carrying a conversation like a man.”

Plebe Summer, which began with Induction Day, June 29, is a fast-paced, boot camp-style orientation that begins four years of preparing midshipmen to become commissioned naval officers. It challenges the new midshipmen to develop leadership ability, motivation, moral courage, teamwork and physical strength.

For the family and friends reuniting with their plebes, it can be shocking to see how much they have changed. Parents say that the new mannerisms their plebes have adopted make them seem almost unrecognizable. They stand taller and straighter, pivot around corners, address everyone as “sir" or "ma'am," and say things like, “where is the head?”

“When I saw him walking up today, I’m telling you, I can’t even explain the feeling of pride to see how much he has grown and matured,” said Mia Nelson, mother of Midshipman 4th Class Gj Nelson. “I’ve just missed him so much.”

During the four-day weekend, parents are able to see the plebes in a formal parade, tour the dorms at Bancroft Hall, and meet with faculty and staff members to get a glimpse of life at the academy, and learn what to expect for their plebes during the upcoming year.

The Class of 2021 is composed of 887 men and 327 women from all over the United States and includes 15 international students from around the globe. The class also includes 60 prior enlisted service members from the Navy, Marine Corps and Army.

The Class of 2021 is scheduled to join the Brigade of Midshipmen during reform, Aug. 16-18. At that point, the plebes will move to their permanent company spaces in preparation for the academic school year.

See more photos from Plebe Parents Weekend on the USNA Flickr page.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Midshipman Spends Summer Serving Desert Eco-Village

Every summer, the U.S. Naval Academy selects up to four first-class midshipmen for the Service International Summer Leadership (SISL) Scholarship, which allows midshipmen to design, plan, and execute an international and impactful service project abroad.

This summer, Midshipmen 1st Class Michelle Tran was selected for the SISL Scholarship and spent five weeks in Israel.

Tran currently studies ocean engineering, and after beginning her studies in environmental engineering and developing her interest in environmental governance, she sought opportunities to put theory to practice.

She found such an opportunity in the middle of the desert.

Israel, unlike the U.S. and most Middle Eastern countries, is one of the most water-efficient nations in the world. The country owes its successes to two variables: the creation of a central, apolitical body that oversees the nation’s water supply and national investment in water-efficient technology such as seawater desalination, drip irrigation, and wastewater treatment.

Tran sought to experience this unique environment herself and set off for Tzukim, a remote town in the Negev desert. For five weeks she and other international volunteers helped maintain an ecologically sustainable lodge and designed and built mud structures out of materials local to southern Israel.

Throughout this experience, Tran identified inefficiencies in the lodge’s greywater treatment system and began drafting pipeline blueprints for construction in the fall and winter.

At the same time, she noticed that this eco-lodge possessed models for success, models that could be applied to developing communities around the world. During her free time in Tzukim, she interviewed academics at a local environmental institute to craft a study on the development, or lack thereof, of small businesses supporting eco-innovation, much like the lodge for which she worked.

She also participated in a learning seminar for young Gazans, Jordanians, and Israelis concerning the food, energy, and water crisis in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. From this experience, Tran employed system-based mapping software to more easily illustrate quantitative longevity models for commodities and industry such as water or energy or coastal fishing.

She hopes to use this software to improve project design for the Engineers Without Borders Club at USNA. At the end of her five weeks, Tran will continue her research in environmental sciences, specifically coastal flooding, at the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

USNA Flag Aide Prepares for Service in Space

By MC2 Brianna Jones

Lt. Kayla Barron, currently serving as flag aide to U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Walter E. Ted Carter Jr., was recently selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.

Photo courtesy of NASA

An "astronaut candidate" is an individual selected by NASA to undergo a candidacy training program at the Johnson Space Center. The 2017 class of 12 astronaut candidates were announced June 7, 2017.

Barron is the 54th USNA graduate to be selected for the astronaut program.

"I think at the heart of my interest in the astronaut program is that it appealed to my adventurous, pioneering spirit," said Barron.

A Richland, Washington native, she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in systems engineering as a member of the first class of women commissioned into the submarine community.

Immediately upon graduation, Barron attended the University of Cambridge on a Gates-Cambridge Scholarship, graduating with a Master’s degree in nuclear engineering before heading to Naval Nuclear Power Training Command for training. She then completed a tour on board USS Maine (SSBN 741), an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

“After a couple of years working on the submarine, I knew I really enjoyed working in that environment," she said. "I got to learn how to operate on a team of highly-functioning people in a resource-limited environment, where the consequences of our decisions really mattered.”
Barron said that although she has always had a passion for science and exploration, the astronaut program is a fairly new goal for her.

“When I was exposed to the astronaut office a few years ago, I started to recognize all of the parallels between what we do on submarines and what our astronauts are doing on the international space station,” said Barron. “I think that was the moment that it clicked.”

Barron will report for duty in August 2017 to begin two years of training. Upon completion, she will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while she awaits a flight assignment.

According to a NASA press release, the new astronauts could be assigned to a variety of future missions, including performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Friday, June 30, 2017

USNA's STEM Program Hosts Baltimore Youth

By MC2 Tyler Caswell

The United States Naval Academy's Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) office hosted 60 Baltimore students during its Summer Heroes Youth Program (SHYP) at USNA.

The students visited USNA for day trips to participate in a number of physical activities and STEM workshops facilitated by midshipmen, staff and faculty.

SHYP highlights what an institution like USNA can offer and hopes to foster interest in higher education in STEM fields among younger students.

“Being from Baltimore, I felt like I almost had a responsibility to participate and show the students that there are kids who come out of the city and attend amazing institutions like USNA,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Dante Daniels, lead midshipman liaison for SHYP. “I’m excited to be able to share my experience, to help inspire them to continue down a great path and value their potential.”

The eight-day program hosted students attending Fort Worthington Elementary, Baltimore IT Academy, Hampstead Hill Academy, AFYA, North County Elementary, Guilford Elementary, Waverly Elementary, Roland Park Elementary and Middle, Vanguard Collegiate Middle, Montebello Elementary and Middle Schools. Parents could drop off students at pick-up points throughout the area including the Y at Weinberg. This collaboration with the community allowed the USNA STEM Center to double the capacity of students for SHYP.

"The community, parents and teachers put a lot of effort forward to help us host this many kids, and the students reflect that,” said Professor Sarah Durkin, USNA STEM Center associate director. “The students are so enthusiastic, we’ve even heard they run to the bus in the mornings.”

The partnership with Baltimore Schools and the STEM program helps emphasize coordination and team-building exercises.

“We think SHYP gives them confidence and strong self-image,” said Professor Angela Moran, Volgenau Chair for education and outreach and STEM Center director. “We see them learn how important communication skills, critical thinking and teamwork are to solving problems.”

While the students learn, create and experience the USNA atmosphere, the midshipmen participating are also given some of their first opportunities in leadership.

“We have about 30 midshipmen who are helping to facilitate," said Durkin. “It’s really a win-win as most of them are entering their second year at USNA, and are given some of their first opportunities to be mentors.”

The STEM Center’s annual impact includes the work of 60 faculty and staff members and 300 midshipmen, organizing 70 events. Through approximately 24,000 midshipmen volunteer hours, the STEM Center reaches out to 13,000 Students, 900 teachers and 150 informal educators from across the country. For more information about USNA’s STEM Center, visit: