Wednesday, October 4, 2023

LEAD Peninsula Visits Newport News Shipyard And NASA Langley

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Participants in LEAD Peninsula recently toured Newport News Shipbuilding and NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton as part of their Technology and Manufacturing Day activities.

LEAD (Learn, Explore, Absorb, and Disseminate) Peninsula is a community and civic immersion program offered by the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce to provide a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at the components that make the Peninsula run efficiently and effectively, and prosper economically.

The program includes ten monthly gatherings that focus on different themes, including History/Hospitality/Tourism, Government, Transportation, Education/Workforce Development, Poverty, Environment, Public Safety, Federal Impact (Military), and Technology/Manufacturing. The most recent event was held on Wednesday, June 7. This was the last event for this year’s class, which will hold their Completion Ceremony on Wednesday, June 14.

Upon arriving at the shipyard, the group was split in two, with one half taking a tour of the dry dock area where the USS Enterprise (CVN 80) aircraft carrier is currently under construction. A presentation was provided to give some history on Newport News Shipbuilding and the importance it provides to both the economy at the local, state, national, and even international level, as well as the role it takes in providing advanced technology to the U.S. Navy.

The other group had an opportunity to visit the MX (Mobile Experience) Trailer, which the shipyard uses as a recruiting tool for the shipbuilders of the future. The trailer showcases Integrated Digital Shipbuilding (iDS) technology, as the Enterprise is the first aircraft carrier being built using digital technology versus paper blueprints. Various stations were set up in the trailer to provide information on laser scanning, augmented reality, and virtual work instructions (VWI), in addition to a virtual welding apparatus that visitors could use to test their welding skills.

“As a new community member, the LEAD class has given me tremendous exposure to a lot of what the Peninsula has to offer,” said Sara Balgoyen, development director at Soundscapes. “I enjoyed getting to tour Newport News Shipbuilding and learning about the advanced technology they are using to both build and repair ships but also to train up the next generation of shipbuilders. As a fiercely competitive person, I also really enjoyed beating out all but one of my classmates on a welding computer training system.”

LEAD participants also visited NASA Langley Research Center. Glenn Hrinda, acting deputy director of the Strategic Partnership Office (SPO), provided background on NASA, a little about Langley specifically, and how they are interacting with the community to promote mutually beneficial partnerships.

“The Strategic Partnership Office (SPO) is a newer office that has been formed here at Langley,” said Hrinda.” We are interested in helping our country, getting our developed technology out to industry, to help industry, to help our country, to help our economy. One way we do that is that we have five different areas. We have different agreements that we make with different companies and colleges and universities. We are interested in how to get our technology out there, either through a partnership or some kind of licensing agreement. We have software that we developed here that we would like to make commercially available. We aren’t a business. We aren’t in this to make money. We’re here to develop new technology and place it into the hands of folks that might want to take that technology and run with it, as a new startup company, as a space company.”

Kim Middleton and Katrina Young from the Technology Transfer Team, which is within the SPO, provided information on licensing technology from NASA, then Eileen Nelson from the Small Business Innovation Research Team in the SPO talked about how NASA is also providing funding opportunities for small businesses that want to help advance technology.

Following the introduction presentations, the group was then split into teams again, with one starting on a tour of the Inflatable Structure Technology Advancement Research (InSTAR) and one visiting the 14×22-Foot Subsonic wind tunnel.

The 2024 LEAD Peninsula application process has closed, but the program will pick up again in August when the new class will have an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how business gets done on the Virginia Peninsula. However, those who did not have a chance to sign up for the class of 2024, can be on the lookout for various Spotlight programs and other activities that the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce holds throughout the year.

For additional information about the Chamber, visit its website at

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