URI, UConn Win Navy Grant For Undersea Engineering Program
URI Today
August 1, 2017
KINGSTON, R.I. -- The University of Rhode Island and the University of Connecticut are teaming up with the U.S. Navy to provide a new opportunity for engineering undergraduates considering careers in the Navy and undersea engineering.
The universities won a $1.3 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to create a community of students, faculty, government and industry leaders that will strive to expand the Navy science and technology workforce.
The three-year grant will be divided to establish joint programs, making it possible to educate and train workers who will be a pipeline to the naval community—vital to the economic livelihood of the region.
 “This collaboration brings something unique to the table, which results in a value proposition greater than the sum of its parts,” says Raymond M. Wright, dean of the URI College of Engineering. “Southern New England has a great concentration of Navy and Navy-related employers. This partnership will help us deliver more highly-skilled engineers to the region and is a win for all.”
  • $1.3 million Navy grant for undersea engineering
  • Collaboration between URI and UConn
  • New undergraduate concentration in naval science, technology
  • Navy internships, seminars, workshops offered
  • Students participate in Navy design projects
Southern New England – in particular, Rhode Island and Connecticut – is a critical region for the Navy. The area is the primary supplier of Naval submarines and has some 600 firms that provide parts for the submarine fleet.
The region is also home to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, in Newport, as well as Raytheon, in Portsmouth, and Electric Boat, in Groton, Conn., where a dramatic increase in hiring is expected. The grant links those institutions, plus the two universities, to create the Southeast New England STEM Coalition.
As part of the coalition, URI and UConn will launch a new concentration in naval science and technology in which students will take seminar-style classes featuring guest speakers from local Navy contractors and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Students will also conduct Navy-based undergraduate research and design projects; projects involving new Navy technologies and mentors from the Navy will be encouraged.
URI and UConn currently offer strong engineering programs that make them highly desirable for Navy-related employment. Missing in the programs is high-level knowledge about naval science and technology and exposure to the regional Navy community.
On both campuses students will be asked to join Navy-related academic, social and professional development activities. Workshops, seminars and networking events will be held regularly, with the two campuses sharing speakers and co-sponsoring talks. The program also involves outreach to community college and high school students.
Internships will continue to play a key role. URI and UConn engineering students have been participating in internships in the Navy and Navy-related firms for years. The grant will allow the universities to build off those relationships and create new opportunities.
URI and UConn engineering professors are leading the initiative. Michael Accorsi, senior associate dean of UConn’s School of Engineering, is executive director, and Daniel Burkey, associate dean for undergraduate education and diversity in UConn’s School of Engineering, is UConn’s campus director.
URI professors and staff involved are Arun Shukla, professor of mechanical, industrial and systems engineering; David Taggart, engineering professor and URI campus director of the project; James Miller, ocean engineering professor; and Charles Watson, assistant director for minority recruitment in the College of Engineering.
“This partnership between URI and UConn is extraordinary on so many levels,” says David Taggart, an engineering professor at URI and URI campus director of the program. “It encourages more students to consider engineering fields in the Navy. It addresses the increasing demand for a highly specialized workforce in southern New England, and it represents the best of what can happen when two flagship universities collaborate.”
URI has been a national leader in naval and ocean engineering for decades. URI has outstanding programs—funded by the Office of Naval Research and other agencies—that do research on the effects of explosions on undersea structures, advanced fluid dynamics for predicting flow around submarine hulls, underwater acoustics, and marine robotics.
Shukla has been working with the American government since the early 1980s to create stronger materials and structures for underwater and land applications that can withstand damage from explosions and implosions to protect soldiers and civilians and make the country’s infrastructure more durable.
“This special cohort of engineering students will have more exposure and awareness of the Navy’s critical needs,” says Shukla. “The project is very important for URI. We become a leader in recruiting and training the next generation of students in naval undersea technologies.”
Miller is also energized by the new program. “The sea is a very demanding environment, and the team of URI and UConn is bringing together some of the best engineers and educators in the world to bear on the Navy’s challenges,” he says. “One of Rhode Island’s assets being brought to the table is the premier ocean engineering program in the country. We’re thrilled to make this a successful program now and for years to come.”
UConn’s Accorsi agrees: “Through this grant, UConn and URI are able to pursue an integrated suite of programs that leverage existing resources and complement Navy programs to create a powerful workforce. We will be able to meet the critical need to build the next generation of Naval workforce."