Manassas Journal Messenger | Students learn what’s current in oceanography

Richard DiGirolamo told students at Stonewall Jackson High School they are the future.

“The new things we’re developing today will be the tools for your generation,” said the program manager with Lockheed Martin’s Payload and Sensors Domestic Submarines division in Manassas.

DiGirolamo and co-worker Kathy Ziegler visited the high school’s Oceanography classes to provide insight into real world applications of classroom studies.

Both DiGirolamo and Ziegler, a computer programmer for the company, made 45-minute PowerPoint presentations to a cafeteria filled with juniors and seniors. The presenters discussed sonar used by submarines and underwater unmanned vehicles built by Lockheed Martin for military uses, including locating underwater land mines without putting personnel in harm’s way.

“I liked seeing the high tech stuff and seeing the things going after the mines,” said senior Tim Elze.

While Elze didn’t plan to become an engineer or computer graphic specialist, he said the information presented was useful because he may pursue a military career.

But junior Kendra Sloan said she would consider a science or engineering career after Wednesday’s presentation.

“I didn’t know anything about this stuff before they said it. It showed me stuff I wouldn’t have even thought of doing,” Sloan said. “It was interesting. They know what they’re talking about so it was very informative.”

DiGirolamo and Ziegler’s mission was accomplished.

“I hope that when you leave here you learn that there’s many opportunities to actually work in these fields,” DiGirolamo said.

He said today’s technologies are very advanced, whereas when he was in school, pocket calculators were cutting edge, but much is still left to be discovered, he said.

“You’re living in a very exciting time,” DiGirolamo said. “Not all things have been invented yet. It’s our hope that you will take that and move forward.”

DiGirolamo and Ziegler also showed the students computer graphic animations of some technologies currently being developed. One consisted of a torpedo-like projectile released from submarines called Long-Term Mine Recognizance System, which uses sonar to scan for mines on the ocean flood, store a map of their locations, and return to the submarine with the information.

Oceanography teacher Jessica Hiruska said the presentation complemented her lessons, and was even able to answer questions that she couldn’t.

Hiruska said her students seemed interested in the presentation, and they learned they are needed to become the scientists and engineers who will help make life better for people and the environment.

A former Lockheed Martin employee, Tony Carpino, brought the idea to Hiruska. He noticed his son, Anthony, was learning about technologies being put into practice only a few miles away.

“He said, ‘Do you think you want some speakers on underwater vehicles? I see my son is learning about that’ and I said ‘I’d love that,” Hiruska said.

Whatever the students’ interests, Ziegler said there were a variety of skills involved in the many interesting aspects of her field. She said it was inevitable that technology will advance, but it was up to her audience and their peers to determine what, where and how.

“Things are going to change in the next 25 years,” Ziegler said. “What happens depends on what you make happen.”

Staff writer Sari Krieger can be reached at (703) 369-6751.

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