Dahlgren, Virginia - Summer interns who worked on technological programs crucial to national defense and security are heading back to classrooms at universities across the country with a new perspective about the U.S. Navy.

In fact, many are envisioning themselves as potential Department of Defense civilian scientists and engineers.

First, the college students - pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs - must complete their bachelor's degrees.

Over their ten week internship, the Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program (NREIP) provided the students with a nice stipend and a chance to acquire technical expertise and career perspectives at laboratories throughout DoD - including the Navy's Undersea and Surface Warfare Center divisions.

Now, the NREIP-interns are returning to campus with experiences they can share with classmates and professors regarding their work at Navy laboratories and test ranges on programs such as the Aegis combat system, directed energy, and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) defense.

"I've had the opportunity to explore cutting edge technology, like 3D printing, while simultaneously expanding my knowledge base to cover the wide variety of engineering projects," said Erik Hippchen, a rising senior at the University of Minnesota, who is working towards a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering. "It is the ultimate learning experience for an up and coming engineer in both the technical and professional sense."

Hippchen was among 22 students who completed their internships at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).

"The internship has been a great hands-on opportunity to directly interact with many professionals here at NSWC Dahlgren as well as professionals from other warfare centers," said Alex Kniffin, a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering with minors in physics, chemistry, and mathematics. "The rewarding nature of the program has solidified my interest in joining Dahlgren as a full time employee post-graduation."

As an intern, Kniffin developed a framework for creating alternative scenarios to create a prediction on the advancements of technology and reduce technological surprise. "He used this framework to work with various experts to incorporate their knowledge into the technological forecasting process," said Dr. Elizabeth Haro, Human Systems Integration engineer.

Hippchen, Kniffin, and their fellow interns briefed scores of military officials and government employees on their findings during a July 28 poster session at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus.

"I know for a fact that the work I did will be taken into good hands and used in the future," said Charisa Powell," a rising Florida State University senior pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science, after briefing her project.

Powell created a user-friendly, error-checking interface for input to a computational fluid dynamics simulation tool. Her project - designed to improve Navy CBR simulation tools that require a large amount of complex input - reduces the workload on users while increasing accuracy and performance.

"I wasn't aware of the vast amount of scientists and engineers that worked for the Navy to protect the warfighter," said Powell, who interned at the NSWCDD CBR Modeling and Testing Branch. "Being at Dahlgren gave me insight on what it's like to be surrounded by such bright individuals, and inspired me to bring skills from my education and work for the government when I graduate to keep our country safer."

That's the NREIP mission - surround interns with mentors who make the students aware of Navy research and technology initiatives that can lead to employment within the Navy laboratory structure. It also gives mentors quality time with proteges who may become their future colleagues.

"This program gives the participating (NSWCDD) branches an opportunity to work with potential new employees to get an idea of how good of a worker they will be," said Greg Stodola, NSWCDD Missile Manager Group lead. "We have had the good fortune of selecting many excellent interns. NREIP also gives the interns the opportunity to see how their education applies to the real world. They can get a taste of a particular discipline of their field to determine if that is really the type of work that they want to do."

Stodola mentored University of North Carolina rising senior Dan Antoshak on the submarine combat control system simulator project.

"It didn't take long for me to feel like part of the team while surrounded by such friendly and knowledgeable mentors," said Antoshak. "I was able to improve my teamwork skills and ability to research independently for the purpose of developing a large scale engineering project."

The computer and electrical engineering major modernized the combat control system simulator that mimics the processing of a launcher that can be used now and in the future. As a result, scientists and engineers won't have to use the launcher in order to test the Tomahawk fire control software.

"I applied what I had learned in school and beyond," Antoshak recalled. "In order to accomplish the task I had to research new programming languages. I collaborated this newfound knowledge with the guidance and experience of my coworkers in order to design something great."

The students collaborated with government technologists on important projects at participating DoD laboratories located in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

Applications for 2017 NREIP summer internships can be submitted from Aug. 22 to Nov. 30, 2016 via the program's website: https://nreip.asee.org .