As Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse Larson recited a brief history of the morning colors ceremony, three of his fellow Sailors waited patiently to raise the flag. The crowd of around 70 men, women and children that had gathered around the flagpole outside Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s headquarters building listened intently.

After Larson concluded, a whistle blew and Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin Smith raised the flag to top staff. He then lowered it to half-staff in honor of former first lady Barbara Bush, who died on April 17, and secured the halyard to the cleat. Three whistles then sounded to signal the end of the ceremony, but also unofficially the start of Bring a Child to Work Day (BACTWD) at NUWC Newport.

“It’s exciting to have so many people here for the flag-raising ceremony,” NUWC Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coughlin told the group. “This is my second one and I really think it’s special to have everyone here as a family here at NUWC Division Newport.”

Signs of spring were offset by lingering reminders of winter, as children learned how to fold American flags amid a steady wind and temperatures in the upper 30s. A few undeterred by the cold stayed after the ceremony to ask Sailors questions, while others headed elsewhere to check out some of the 38 events planned for the nearly 700 children who participated in the day.

Aimed at familiarizing children with careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), BACTWD has been held at NUWC Newport since 2004. The day includes presentations on unmanned undersea vehicles, periscope imaging, marine mammals, underwater acoustics, missile and torpedo operations and other ways that NUWC supports the mission of the U.S. Navy. Facility tours, science experiments and virtual world and robotic demonstrations are some the ways the children are engaged.

Demonstrations such as “Firing of the 3-inch Launcher System,” sponsored by the Platform and Payload Integration Department explained the types of materials that might be fired out of the 3-inch launcher system on submarines.

“One of the things we might launch out of this is a flair,” Brad Rotsky said.

“You mean like an S.O.S.?” asked Leon Markarian, 10.

“Yes, just like an S.O.S.,” Rotsky said.

Rotsky used a number of relatable examples to show how the system works, first showing a water gun with a section exposed to demonstrate the launcher’s piston action. When explaining the system, he asked how many members of his audience had ever put a projectile into a straw and blown into one end of it — drawing a few devilish grins from a couple of the boys in the crowd.

After advising everyone to cover their ears, Rotsky fired the 3-inch launcher system. It let out two loud whooshes, much to the delight of the eagerly watching children.

In another corner of the room, Linda Egan, Chris Aunchman, Jodi Whitehouse, and Diana Berlo gave a presentation on Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles.

After a brief video showing the process behind operating these missiles, Egan explained the different parts and functions of the Tomahawk.

“It’s like a transformer,” she said. “It starts out as a rocket and then transforms into a jet plane.”

Aunchman followed with a description of the Harpoon, highlighting the similarities and differences between it and the Tomahawk.

“The mission is going to be different,” Aunchman said. “The Harpoon is used for engaging surface vessels and sometimes coastal targets.”

Charles Krumholz, 10, and his friend, Mason Thorn, 9, were particularly interested in each presentation and had plenty of questions for both Egan and Aunchman.

“They’ve been really jazzed,” Jason Krumholz, Charles’ father said. “I’m a scientist, so I really try to keep them interested in the science side of things.”

Volcanoes, explosions, fire and frozen bananas were on the agenda at the Chemistry Lab. The “Chemical Magic Show,” hosted by Dr. Lou Carreiro, Dr. John Izzo, Dr. Charlie Patrissi, Dr. Craig Urian, Christian Schumacher and Allyson MacInnis, is traditionally a big draw on BACTWD. It continued to be a huge hit this year as participants learned about various principles of chemistry including changes in state and the principle of solubility. In its well-rounded show, the Chemistry Lab team completed 11 different demonstrations, ending with an interactive slime activity.

The Graphics team hosted at least 100 children for their “So You Want to Be in Pictures?” demonstration. Choosing from more than 20 different posters, the kids had their photos taken in the same poses and lighting as depicted in the poster before heading off to one of the graphic artists to have their photos made into a “Star Wars” poster, a Tom Brady poster, or a “Jumanji” poster, to name a few. The most popular posters of the day were “Minecraft” and “Moana.” Keith McClenning served as photographer while Mike DeLuise, Josh Robinson, Brian Louro, Jestyn Flores and Dan Gardner worked their magic in PhotoShop. Nancy Knott kept the children occupied with a large-scale mural and a coloring project inspired by the New Bedford Whaling Museum exhibit.

Coughlin invited participants for “Cookies with the Captain,” where he took photos with the children and gave them a “look around” — a term used on submarines when a crewmember wants to come to the bridge while on the surface — from his sixth-floor office.

“We’re down to the last fudge cookie here, someone’s got to take it,” Coughlin said, motioning to the last cookie in one of the many partially full containers spread out on the conference table.

The cookie lasted just a few more moments before J.P. Brennan, 10, gladly stepped forward and claimed it.

Oreo Thins, multi-colored chocolate submarines and mini chocolate-chip cookies that Coughlin brought back with him from a recent trip to Hawaii made the Captain’s office a popular spot for Brennan and dozens of other children. It was certainly a hit for Parker Aldrich, who was celebrating his eighth birthday.

“I like this opportunity,” Parker’s father, Benjamin Aldrich, said. “It’s kind of neat, the open-house format. It really seems to work for the kids.”

Children posed for photos with Coughlin and gazed out at Narragansett Bay; two girls even utilized a pair of binoculars that were on Coughlin’s coffee table to get a better look.

“I think it’s great,” Brennan’s grandmother, Patti Davis, said. “I’ve been here for 10 years but this is the first time I’ve really done this.”

Outside of the cookies, Brennan said he really enjoyed the “So You Want to be in Pictures?” exhibit. There, he had his picture taken and his head placed onto the body of a character from the movie “Black Panther” — timely, since he had just seen the film the night before.

“I love working here. It really is like a family,” Davis said. “When you’re walking around everyone always says hello and is so friendly.”

Plastic, red firefighter hats were a popular wardrobe choice for many children courtesy of the Naval Station Newport Fire Department. In addition to the souvenirs, children also got the chance to check out a firetruck, talk with some firefighters and even practice putting out an actual fire — albeit it a small, propane-fueled one controlled in an open metal box.

Fire Inspector Ron Daniello demonstrated the PASS method for using a fire extinguisher, first pulling the pin, then aiming the hose, squeezing the handle and spraying the base of the fire.

“It was really cool,” Frankie Arnold, 7, said after taking her turn to spray the flames. “You have to push the handle and spray back and forth and then it will put out the fire.”

Arnold attended the festivities with her cousin, Gigi McVeigh, 7, and her aunt, employee Sarah Rocketto. McVeigh said her favorite event was the “Lasers at Work” event – at least it was, until Arnold mentioned their time at the “Deal or No Deal” exhibit.

NUWC Division Newport, part of NAVSEA, is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Division Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures. NUWC’s other division is located in Keyport, Wash.

The Latest From WUN

Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).