by Tom Schram (The
“Radar/Sonar Officer” reports contacts to the OOD during a NavOps exercise
in the submarine simulator. )
Do you remember how
you learned science in school? How about during your shipboard
assignments? What distinguished your “book” learning from the reality of
the actual application of your knowledge? Most likely, it was the
“hands-on” training typical of submarine duty that made the biggest
impression. Well, just imagine how 5th graders feel when they assume the
role of Chief of the Watch in a fully-articulating submarine simulator
during an exercise that is part of the NavOps Deep SubmergenceTM
curriculum. NavOps is a nine-month science curriculum developed by Purdue
University Calumet for the Gary, Indiana school district.
Yes, 5th graders
routinely perform navigation with Navy charts and maneuvering boards,
calculate water density, and plot sonar contacts as their Research &
Rescue submarine steams around the world, both in their classrooms and
also in a submarine simulator during “missions.” The enthusiasm and
commitment of the students, teachers, and parents in Gary has stimulated
a desire to expand the program into the Northern Kentucky/Greater
Cincinnati region and to make it broadly available in the United States.
Originally designed for disadvantaged students in the Gary district, it
became obvious that this program could play a significant educational
Submarine Science Discovery Center (NSSDC) is an organization dedicated
to the development of interactive, “hands on” mathematics and science
training for children. Why? The sobering reality is that the United
States has an annual – and increasing – shortfall of qualified graduates
to fill jobs in science- and technology-related fields. NSSDC makes
strategic sense for the region and the nation. We plan to combine a
former nuclear-powered submarine USS Narwhal (SSN-671), an
interactive science discovery center, and a science education outreach
program into one facility. If NSSDC’s request is approved Narwahl will
become the only former nuclear-powered submarine to be donated by the
Navy to a non-military entity. The primary objective is to deliver
improved science education, and NSSDC will attract visitors from all over
the region. We already have significant ties to the Smithsonian
Institution and other national science programs.
is located directly adjacent to Newport on the Levee.
The NavOps curriculum
was developed with a Navy grant by Purdue University Calumet’s Department
of Education, because studies have shown that students who have not had a
positive science experience by the 5th grade have a low probability of
taking elective science or mathematics courses in later academic life.
The program, which combines a curriculum, classroom experiments, and
simulation exercises, started in one school of the Gary, Indiana school
district in the fall of 1997 and expanded to all 22 district schools in
1998. The NavOps submarine control room simulator and software were
developed by a submariner, CWO4 Fred Huddleston, USNR (ret.). He made
sure it was realistic, stimulating, and fun, while delivering the “hands
on” learning experience critical to understanding of science and
technology concepts. Students are assessed not only on development of
individual skill levels in science but also on their ability to work as a
team with a common goal. NavOps continues to be the Gary district’s
science program for the 5th grade and is now in its seventh year.
An analysis of the
concept in the context of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region
indicated that NSSDC could have an economic impact of over $20 million
annually. Additionally, as the only science center for 150 miles in any
direction, it would draw multiple visitor segments. These include
regional and local visitors, national tourists, educational visitors
attracted by the NavOps classes, and attendees of military reunions and
special events. After the concept had been defined, studied, and proposed
on a contingent basis to the region—with a very positive response—we
sought a location that would ensure a high probability of success. The
City of Newport, Kentucky, directly across the Ohio River from
Cincinnati, agreed to donate an ideal site. It is on the river directly
adjacent to a local family entertainment center that draws almost four
million visitors annually and includes the Newport Aquarium.
Additionally, the site can be seen from almost every seat in the new
Cincinnati Reds venue, the Great American Ballpark, as well as from
downtown Cincinnati and adjoining Ohio River communities.
projected opening date for the project is slated for 2007. Seen here is
an artist’s conception of the planned discovery center on the Ohio River.
The NSSDC concept and
proposed location were persuasive, but asking for an SSN was highly
unusual, and no former nuclear-powered submarine had ever been donated
previously. Designation of an actual SSN for the Center seemed necessary
to attract financial backing. The Navy inactivated and defueled Narwhal
at Newport News in 1999 and towed her to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
(PSNS) for scrapping. At the time, she was the only submarine
realistically viable for potential declassification and donation. Senator
Jim Bunning of Kentucky submitted an amendment to the Defense Appropriations
Act via the Joint Conference Committee in August 2003 that would
authorize the Secretary of the Navy to designate Narwahl for NSSDC,
provided that the latter could meet the Navy’s ship donation criteria.
The Navy had no objection to the proposed legislation, and President Bush
signed it into law on September 30, 2003.
Transfer of Narwhal
to NSSDC will be at no cost to the Navy other than what would normally be
incurred in disposing of a typical SSN. In order to achieve
declassification, the reactor compartment and all equipment aft of it
must be completely removed. This essentially entails cutting the reactor
compartment out of the hull. Narwahl will be displayed completely out of
the water, sitting on keel blocks or a keel cradle on the deck of a ballastable
barge, similar to a floating drydock but with water-tight ends. We will
insert a plug identical in dimension to the reactor compartment to ensure
that the overall length remains the same as it was when the boat was
constructed. About 40 percent of the Narwahl’s hull will be
visible above the sides of the barge.
Narwahl’s emergency generator room is
currently in superior condition. The planned configuration will include
access to Narwahl from the barge deck via
a ramp leading onto the quarterdeck and into the restored operations
and bow sections.
In the planned
configuration, the space aft of the reactor compartment will be open and
used for displays, interactive exhibits, or historical presentations.
Access to Narwahl from the barge deck will be via a ramp leading
to a double-door entranceway onto a quarterdeck. Forward would be the
restored operations and bow sections, and nearby would be a building for
other elements of the Discovery Center.
The barge is needed
to support the modified hull structurally to facilitate towing it to
Newport via the Panama Canal and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, where a
vessel can draw only 10 feet, and to display Narwhal at its
final berth. Thus, this ocean-going barge must be capable of being
flooded down in a dry dock so that the submarine can be floated over it
and positioned onto the keel blocks or cradle for modification and ultimate
display. The entire project will cost approximately $60 million, with
over half represented by “in-kind” contributions already committed, such
as the submarine itself, its modifications at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard,
and a donated berth location. Out-of-pocket costs are estimated at about
$26 million and will be finalized from engineering studies, economic
analysis, and master planning.
Effort is proceeding
on several fronts. NSSDC now has a brochure and video package to
communicate the vision of our project. Marine Corps veteran and Academy
Award winning actor Gene Hackman narrated the seven-minute video,
“Bringing Science to Life!” on a pro bono basis. This video focuses on
the urgent need to build up our science education programs and how NSSDC
will help to meet this need. Naval Sea Systems Command and PSNS are
developing an engineering design package for the Narwhal
modifications and NSSDC is expected to open on Memorial Day in 2007. To
learn more about the project, please visit our web site at: http://www.NSSDC.us
Tom Schram is the
Executive Director of the National Submarine Science Discovery Center
(NSSDC) in Newport, Kentucky and one of its founders. He served seven
years as an Intelligence Officer (1610) after graduating
from the Naval Academy in 1969. He spent 15 years with Procter &
Gamble before becoming an independent marketing consultant. He began work
on this project in August of 2002.