Thomas Nelson alum Darius Seals was a teacher of sorts last Wednesday for students who turned out to the see latest technology when the Newport News Shipyard set up its iDS MX trailer at the Hampton campus.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., students filed in and out of the 53-foot trailer encountering Seals and six other presenters from the shipyard. Nearly 10 stations, each with a video screen and display table of assorted gadgets, exhibited augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, laser scanning and visual build management (VBM), which is how to build a carrier without printing a drawing.
“The students have been very interested and excited seeing the various ways we apply this technology. Also, they have been surprised about the many options that are open to them at the shipyard. For me, this opportunity being back on campus talking to students about some of the very things I learned while studying here is gratifying,” said Seals, a 2016 graduate, who earned an associate of applied science degree in mechanical engineering. He is now pursuing a degree at Old Dominion University.
Another presenter Alan Clark said the things featured are steadily emerging at the Newport News site. “The idea is how we’re utilizing technology at Newport News Shipbuilding to become better and more effective every day. We’re in this thing we call digital transformation. Some of it is stuff that maybe smaller tech companies have been doing for a lot longer. We’re figuring out how we can leverage that technology in our massive machine,” he said.
“What [students are seeing] is digital work instruction which is taking the 3D models to the craftsmen. So it’s going to replace drawing bottom line. The new Ford class aircraft carriers are going to be built about 85 percent without drawings. There won’t be any paper drawings except for in a few places. What it’s all about is: how do we get that model to the craftsmen?,” added Clark.
Linda Carrithers, a design engineering manager with digital shipbuilding who was also among presenters, was thrilled by the students’ turn out and their eagerness. “I think they’ve really enjoyed seeing all of the things and then they ask where can they go to speak to somebody about a job,” she said pointing to a group watching a printing process.
“In the back corner we’re showing the 3D printing of metal. Everybody is 3D printing of plastics. What happens if you have obsolete parts that the manufacturer doesn’t make any more but we need this part for the ship? Now, when we have a 3D model, we can actually build some of these parts. We’re looking at that and are working on that,” said Carrithers.
Situated in a parking lot near Hastings Hall, the enormous trailer piqued Shanikqua Norman’s interest drawing her inside. “What brought me over here was I’ve been looking forward to signing up [for a position] at the Shipyard. I thought this was a chance to find out more information, which it has been. This gave me more on what to look for when I go apply,” said the nursing major, who headed inside Hastings Hall to talk with a recruiter from the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard.
Tom Pringle,Thomas Nelson’s Computer-Aided Drafting and Design program head, coordinated with shipyard officials to bring the exhibit to campus. “The College’s partnership with the shipyard and bringing something like this out here gives the entire campus community a good feel for the opportunities students can pursue. It’s not just about engineering and design. There are so many more opportunities for students,” he said.
“A lot of people honestly leave [the trailer] surprised at everything that this entails and the amount of information that they’re being provided is giving them insight into other potential career fields.
The shipyard has its own hospital, firefighting team, police force, nursing … There’s basically a place for everybody. You can go to work at the shipyard and switch career fields four times and never leave company,” Pringle added.