A few hundred high school juniors gathered in a ring around a hawk as it devoured a squirrel Tuesday morning at the Naval Academy. Brandishing their smartphones, the crowd groaned and cheered at the action.
"Take a picture and move on," an academy midshipman shouted.
It was the only blood the teens saw during their week at the Naval Academy Summer Seminar for high school students. But there was plenty of talk about warfare, and about other things that fly — such as the U.S. military's V-22 Ospreys, a tiltrotor aircraft that some of the students might one day fly.
The academy's Summer Seminar, which offers three weeklong sessions in June, aims to give rising high school seniors a taste of life at the academy before they apply to colleges in the fall. The program is one of several hosted at the academy over the summer. The campus also offers sports camps and a program for students interested in science and engineering.
For the summer seminar, 860 students lived in the school's dorms, ate in the cafeteria, attended classes and completed rigorous physical trials.
The program draws students from all over the country; California, Michigan, Texas and Kentucky were among the states represented last week.
Local students also attend. Dante Daniels, 17, of Baltimore came from his school, Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School near Clifton Park.
Daniels, who expects to graduate from Mergenthaler with a certificate in engineering, wants to be the first member of his family to enter the military. He said he heard about the summer program during a visit to the academy; he applied as soon as he got home.
It was his first time staying on a college campus, and during the week Daniels said he "kind of love[s]" the daily routine, which includes getting up at 5:30 a.m. for physical training.
"I'm used to following orders," he said.
On Tuesday morning, students learned about Anonymous, an underground network of hackers, in a workshop called "Cyber Operations." At another workshop, Ensign John B. Nowell showed off the academy's massive "tow tanks," indoor canals where model boats are tested. The biggest tank is 380 feet long and 60 feet deep.
Students calculated the precise height and speed of waves needed to hit the resonant frequency of a platform floating in the tank. When those waves were generated, the platform — meant to simulate a real off-shore platform — heaved up and down in the water.
Students also got a taste of Navy-style adventure — one session included a demonstration by the Navy parachute team, the Leap Frogs, jumping onto the academy's Worden Field. One of the most highly anticipated events of the week was Wednesday's sea trials, which Midshipman 1st Class Heather Bui characterized as "throwing yourself in the water and rolling around in the dirt so you look like a sugar cookie."
Daniels said he was "stoked" for the event.
Bui, a rising senior at the academy from San Diego, is one of the 109 students who help run the summer seminars. Bui said she loves witnessing the high school students at "such a crucial time in their lives." Some of the students are deciding whether to apply to the academy, and the week can have a key influence on their decision.
But others, such as Daniels, have already made the choice.
"I fell in love with this school at first sight," he said. His parents are "100 percent" in support of his decision to apply, he said.