Taylor Nappi '13 Steps Up For Our Country In Time Of Crisis

By Zach Maizel '04
Institutional Advancement Associate

In March 2020, the world came to a screeching halt as the COVID-19 pandemic swept from China, through Europe and reached American shores. As a result of this novel coronavirus, the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) skyrocketed and greatly outnumbered the supply.  With our country calling out for help in production, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard answered that call, as it has so many times before for the United States.  Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, commonly referred to as PNS, was established in the year 1800 and is the U.S. Navy’s oldest continuously operating shipyard.  The shipyard was an intrical part of the United States of America’s success in both World Wars, building submarines which included the first built by a U.S. naval shipyard in the early 20th century, during World War I. During World War II, PNSY developed and deployed over 70 submarines and became the U.S. Navy’s center for submarine design and development.  Fast forward to 2020, and Marvelwood graduate and Engineer Taylor Nappi ‘13 has put his expertise into the defense of our front line workers, against a new kind of enemy, in one of the most trying times in our country’s histor

Taylor grew up in Wingdale, NY with his mother Karin P ‘13, ‘16, Senior Advancement Associate at Marvelwood, father John, and sisters Kristy and Danielle ‘16.  From a young age, Taylor was fascinated by machinery and engineering.  Spending much of his time riding dirt bikes and working with his father John, lead mechanic for the Town of Bedford’s Highway Department, on all things with motors, wheels, and some things without, Taylor learned from an early age how things worked.  “My father was definitely my biggest motivating factor to be interested in mechanics and mechanical design.  As I got older and became more involved in riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes, I became a lot more interested in the engineering that went into these machines. I originally wanted to follow his footsteps and be on the more hands-on side of things, but he always pushed me to use my head to make a living rather than my hands,” reminisced Taylor. “I began attending Marvelwood as a junior and did very well there.  

Having pretty bad ADHD and a very difficult time understanding mathematics, I had a tough time excelling at a public school where the class sizes were substantially larger and the teachers were less inclined to see you succeed.  At Marvelwood, I was able to form solid relationships not only with my peers but with my teachers as well, who really helped my success by encouraging me and constantly pushing me to be better. Being able to develop a relationship with your teachers allows them to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how to leverage those to help you succeed.  To this day, I strongly believe that Mr. White is the reason I am doing what I am now. Furthermore, your day to day schedule was very well defined, which I believe helps significantly in setting students up for success in the real world.”

When Karin began working at Marvelwood, she felt that the care, attention, and belief in the students would be a perfect fit for Taylor. “My inspiration to bring Taylor to Marvelwood was after a public high school teacher told him he would never amount to anything and would be surprised if he even graduated high school (can you believe that!??)”  The contrast of learning styles at Marvelwood and the attention to detail from our teachers is what Karin saw firsthand and helped her drive the decision for Taylor to switch schools.  “Taylor was diagnosed with ADHD and struggled with attention and restlessness, and this particular teacher did not understand his learning needs.  It was a no brainer when the opportunity arrived to have him attend Marvelwood as a junior. Here is where all the gifts Taylor naturally possessed were pulled out of him, at his own pace, with mutual respect and guidance of his teachers and mentors. His confidence soared and he tried new things that he found he enjoyed.”  Taylor immediately responded to Dennis White’s Engineering class, where Taylor was able to spread his wings in a subject that he found he was unquestionably passionate about and loved the challenge of problem-solving to complete a project.  “When Taylor was a student in my engineering class, he would only occasionally ask for help.  One time in particular he asked for my help and while I was making my suggestion he mentioned: ‘Actually Mr. White, I think I figured it out.’  And he did.  His creation is still on display in the classroom.  He was an expert at understanding complex gear ratios, torque, and the use of the differential gearbox.  He continues to amaze me,” said Dennis of Taylor’s time in his class.

Engineering’s main core requirements in the mathematics field did not come easily for Taylor and his decision to attend Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, was brought on with a little help from his college counselor at Marvelwood.  “We were very lucky that his college counselor, Amanda DeMaria, suggested he apply to colleges to study engineering.  Despite his math struggles, Taylor worked hard to achieve this goal and eventually landed his dream job. He absolutely thrived at Marvelwood,” Karin stated about the decision to pursue engineering at RWU.  Taylor looked back on his major in college and talked about how it related to his highly technical engineering work: “At RWU, I ended up majoring in engineering with a mechanical specialization, which means that I took classes in most facets of engineering (chemical, structural, civil, electrical), but the majority of my course load was mechanical.  This ended up being very helpful in my previous job, where I worked as a manager in heavy construction, and at my current job where I also do a lot of structural and electrical work.  I also minored in mathematics.”  While at RWU, Taylor worked as a MediaTech assistant, where he provided support and assistance to students, faculty, and staff through their IT department and took an internship at WSP, a globally recognized professional services firm that dates back to the late 1800s and developed the original designs of the NYC subway system. “I interned with a large MEP (Mechanical, Engineering, and Plumbing) firm the year after my sophomore year of college, which really helped me realize that most engineering does not include doing math the way you are taught in school. In school, they teach you how to approach a problem from a theoretical standpoint, where in the real world you are responsible for developing a solution for a problem by applying known standards or guidelines,”  Taylor said about the applications of engineering, which suited him more than the style of mathematics in school.  “I had a very tough time with the math portion of engineering (which was about 90% of my courses), but have always been pretty stubborn and persistent so I refused to give up.  My time at Marvelwood also helped me realize that I do much better when I stick to a strict schedule, which helped me greatly in college.”  Taylor earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2018.

Taylor spent the first leg of his professional career working as a High Voltage Construction Engineer at the Cricket Valley Energy Center, overseeing contractors and liaising with various state and municipal agencies.  In March of 2019, Taylor found his way to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to begin his fascinating and important work:  “I currently work for the United States Navy where I help develop solutions to complex problems in support of our Nation’s defense. In addition to that, I develop, produce, and support unique solutions to aid our warfighters.  My day to day consists of a lot of research and development, design work, and leveraging additive manufacturing to support our mission.”  As Taylor’s work developed on the base and he got more involved with day-to-day operations of his department, the pandemic’s rapid expansion across the world, put our country in serious need for protective equipment, on and off the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. 

Very early on in the coronavirus outbreak, I was asked to help support a group that was 3D printing parts for PPE. This very quickly led to us forming the Advanced Manufacturing Group, where we would evaluate different designs, discuss manufacturing methods, and determine how to satisfy the massive demand for PPE. I became responsible for managing the effort which included evaluating designs, sourcing, procuring, and allocating materials/equipment, working with outside vendors, aiding in distribution, and delegating work to approximately 75-100 people, including engineers, mechanics, scientists, procurement specialists, etc. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with all of these people; they are some of the best I have ever met. We worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for many months to help support medical professionals across the country. We also received a massive amount of support from local universities, businesses, and the community. Together, we produced over 40,000 pieces of PPE (mostly face shields and ear savers), which helped protect not only our workforce but medical professionals across the country.”

The immediate need for our country and the unwavering resolve of our engineers and technicians within the US Navy sent the Advanced Manufacturing Group into action to aid people who needed PPE most.  In moments of crisis, it is people like Taylor who stand up in pursuit of a common cause: to protect the people of the United States. “It was astounding and truly inspiring how quickly hundreds of people from all walks of life were able to come together to help make a difference.  The extreme gratitude we received from doctors, nurses, and other front line workers was very humbling.  The overall effort really demonstrated people’s ability to put their differences aside and work towards a common goal.”  Taylor’s work in our time of crisis was inspirational and a testament to his commitment to his craft and willingness to help others. Looking beyond the current pandemic and the amazing work of the AMG Taylor and his colleagues will continue to produce items that help our soldiers, domestic and abroad, to carry out their missions, stay safe as they defend us, and provide new innovations to make each task more efficient and better prepared for the dangers they face.  “Currently, the AMG works to support our armed forces by providing rapid solutions to complex problems by leveraging advanced manufacturing technologies.”  Taylor and his family are extremely proud of this important work that he is a part of and the entire Marvelwood community thanks Taylor for his service to our country, as we navigate through one of the most challenging times in our history.