IST intern updates military wargame for National Strategic Research Institute

Hope Damato
September 21, 2021

(Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of stories highlighting College of Information Sciences and Technology students and their summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Not many college students have the opportunity to directly impact national security. But this past summer, Army ROTC and College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) junior Hayden Maxwell traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, to take on a job that works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. 

Maxwell’s internship was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, but he is specifically working for the National Strategic Research Institute’s Advanced Research Center for Strategic Deterrence.

“Army ROTC offered a large list of potential internship opportunities and I ranked this as my highest choice,” he said. “I believe I was chosen because I am able to give a military opinion on matters given my position as a cadet.  My major, security and risk analysis, also closely aligns to this line of work.”  

During the summer, Maxwell and other interns updated a military wargame focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The game, created by the research director for nuclear programs at the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska, U.S. Strategic Command’s University Affiliated Research Center, was originally a limited nuclear conflict tabletop exercise. But Maxwell and his team were tasked with updating the game to current-day standings with the conflict, as well as putting it on a web-based platform that can be played by military officials and academic audiences. 

“Our research was largely focused on the nuclear arsenal of Russia, Ukraine and the United States,” he said. “We also had to create academic resources for nonprofessional audiences so that they would be able to understand and play the game.”

Everything from current military assets to political states and economy was researched at an unclassified level. This information was used to update the professional military wargame that was being pushed to an online format. 

“I may never have the opportunity to brief someone as high ranking as him again in my military career,” Maxwell said.

He started this internship with a base knowledge of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons thanks to introductory security risk analysis classes with Bill Parquette, professor of practice in the College of IST. Throughout his time at the College of IST, Maxwell worked in various group projects that gave him teamwork experience while completing the internship, and he looks forward to building on those skills as he pursues his degree and other professional experiences.

“I’ve been gaining more confidence and skill with public speaking,” he said. “Having to brief high ranking men and women in this field of nuclear weapons can be intimidating, but this internship challenged me to do briefs weekly. I have already seen improvements with my speaking.”

Upon graduation, Maxwell will be commissioned into the U.S. Army, and plans to continue work in the government sector once his military service ends. His internship has uniquely prepared him for his future goals, as it allowed him to work for and with senior military leaders while building professional and briefing skills. He says this internship gave him valuable experience, exposure and connections within this field.  

“Many of the men and women I have encountered have served or are currently serving and have given me a lot of advice on how to transition from military to government work,” he said. “I spoke with people that had various backgrounds, majors and lifestyles that made me many connections to open the door to a future with the government.”

Last Updated October 04, 2021