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.