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Ocean engineering students giving a thumbs up at the 2021 Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Maritime Convention
The Department of Ocean Engineering sent six students to a professional maritime conference in Rhode Island. | Image: Courtesy of Megan Hinks

The Department of Ocean Engineering at Texas A&M University recently sent six students in its local branch of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) to the 2021 SNAME Maritime Convention in Rhode Island. As part of its ongoing push to further the educational experience of its students and expand the knowledge of its faculty, the department was excited to offer this opportunity for students to both network with fellow student society members as well as learn from industry and academic members in attendance.

“So, first, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to the department because this was such an awesome opportunity for all of us to go and learn,” said Megan Hinks, an ocean engineering junior. “The department paid for the whole trip, and if that wasn’t the case, I probably wouldn’t be able to go. I’m so grateful.”

Hinks said that the conference included several panels and presentations from expert professionals and students spanning a wide range of topics from naval archeology to renewable energy. One industry presentation discussed a project involving data samples taken from different shipwrecks that were cross-referenced against a known sample of a specific vessel that researchers were looking for in the harbor near Providence, Rhode Island. A student presentation Hinks sat in on described how ships carried turbines to offshore wind farms and proposed new designs for making the process more efficient.

In addition, the student chapters of SNAME were brought together, not only to network with other branches from across the nation but also to have a large-scale meeting in which the directors of each branch presented challenges they faced and their visions for the future.

“It really got me excited for my future within SNAME and also what’s to come for ocean engineering,” Hinks said.

After the director talks, students put their engineering minds to the test as they were challenged to make ships made from household items. Split into teams consisting of students randomly assigned from various universities, groups were tasked with crafting boats that could float in a water tank out of items such as aluminum foil, balloons, paper towels and their rolls, among other items.

“It’s fun because you get to see how other students have been taught to apply the things they learned and get to compare that and bounce ideas off one another,” Hinks said. “We work with people from Texas A&M all the time. But whenever you’re taught by different professors, from different states, with different backgrounds, you get to hear a variety of ideas that you’ve never thought of before. It’s really cool.”

She explained that meeting peer society members was an enlightening experience. Being able to compare how their ocean engineering programs were set up at their universities and learning from their scholastic perspectives allowed her to better reflect on her own Aggie experience.

“In the classroom, you hear a lot about industry and what’s going on, but opportunities like this allow students to see firsthand that the lessons we learn will be applied in our careers,” Hinks said. “I learned a ton and getting to see how the terminology and techniques I’ve learned turn into something tangible is really impactful.”

As someone interested in sustainability, Hinks was enthusiastic about the theme of the conference being just that  allowing her to hear several discussions about the emerging field of offshore sustainability.

She continued by explaining that while the major is broad in the lessons learned, the convention showed her that her industry options are equally vast.

“That’s what I have to look forward to  there’s such a wide variety of things I can choose from,” Hinks said. “And I feel like there’s a lot of growth for the future. There’s a lot of possibility.”