In the early morning hours of October 26, the gates of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) opened to the eyes of the world – or at least to the Monterey Peninsula – for the university’s annual Discover NPS Day.
Throughout the day, an estimated 2,200 school children along with their accompanying teachers and parents, and community members from across the Monterey region, streamed through the campus to touch, build, drive and be inspired through experiencing what actually happens on the other side of the university’s gates.
“This was an opportunity for us at NPS to really give back to the community, and it means so much to us,” said Navy Cmdr. Paula Travis, Program Officer for the meteorology, oceanography and undersea warfare programs who donned the hat of Discover NPS Day Committee Chair this year. “Without the community, we wouldn't be able to recruit world-class faculty or offer the highest quality of life for our military officers and service members, so this is a chance for us to give back to them, and to show the community what we really do here.”
Groups of 15-20 kids, ranging from 5th grade through high school were led across the campus by volunteer NPS student ambassadors to a broad range of compelling venues. They spoke with astronauts; hacked Wi-Fi networks; launched rockets; battled with robots; dined in the Grand Ballroom of the historic Hotel Del Monte; walked around a virtual reality replica of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan; joined Dumbledore’s Army and used social network analysis to defeat Death Eaters; and interacted with satellites, to mention a few of the many activities designed to demonstrate the kind of work the school’s students do.
In the university’s King Auditorium, they spoke with astronaut retired Navy Capt. Dan Bursch, who described his career and voyages in space, and arranged to hear a message from astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor from onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
“From our vantage point here in the ISS, we view the world without borders and it's very easy to see how the Monterey Peninsula connects to the rest of the world,” she said in the broadcast. “Today, you'll see how the education and research programs underway at the Naval Postgraduate School have a global reach. From science and engineering, to national security affairs and business, NPS has an institutional impact that can be felt around the world.
“From all of us here at ISS, enjoy your time at Discover NPS Day!” she continued. “I hope you'll leave today inspired by what this university, right here in your community, is doing to change the world.”
Whereas the 2017 event focused primarily on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the scope of activities broadened this year to provide a more holistic view of the campus’ work, including social sciences and national security affairs.
“We’re neighbors,” Travis said about the Monterey Bay area community, “and we want to welcome them into our home. Last year we opened our doors, and welcomed people into our game room, where all the fun science and technology happens.
“This year we wanted to take it to expand that,” she continued. “Not only do we want to show neighbors our game room, but also welcome them into the study, for example, where we read books and write papers on compelling topics, keep mementos and fine art showcasing our history. We welcomed them into our living room, where we live life, relax and have fun together, and demonstrate who we really are.”
“That’s the important part of this ... We want to show people who we are, and everything we do to keep this nation safe,” she added.