By Michael P. Kleiman and Karen Y. Jackson, Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate Public Affairs
/ Published November 30, 2006
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Since June, two six-member teams composed of a mixture of Air Force junior officers and civilians have focused, with a sense of urgency, on designing, developing, and testing groundbreaking, non-lethal, vehiclestopper prototypes.
These prototypes are meant for employment at deployed military checkpoints to deter operators or occupants from disregarding instructions to halt or from conducting potential hostile actions.
Both dedicated groups, working here, and at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, will demonstrate their pioneering products during a judged competition held at a Raytheon facility in Arizona in November.
Initiated by Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen. Ted Bowlds earlier this year, the Junior Workforce Challenge Project seeks to innovatively and rapidly construct, evaluate, as well as prove options for U.S. and Coalition Forces' use in resolving, without deadly force, the chronic, dangerous problem of uncooperative vehicles at in-theater ground transportation checkpoints. Supplemented by $60,000 funding, each squad, featuring novice engineers, has created affordable, versatile and portable samples with the end user in mind.
"I think our team is getting close to having good things to demonstrate. We are in a good position to put on a good show," said Capt. Chris Rehm, Kirtland team lead, and an electrical engineer. "It has been really neat to see how our team operates, as we all have fallen into roles that are needed. Everyone brings an important perspective to the table."
Three primary prototypes and another attentiongetting device will be demonstrated by the Kirtland team at the competition.
"We have had to come up with a concept and develop it from beginning to end. It has been a very streamlined, fast-paced process," said Jack Massarello, a metallurgical and materials engineer. "I have felt pressure everyday, but it has been a rewarding experience. I am grateful that I was selected to participate in the project."
"We gathered a wealth of information through our interviews with troops, Marines, reporters, civilian police, area experts who were or have been involved in the Global War on Terrorism, new and potential users and news clips. After gathering the information, we wanted to start building immediately," said 2nd Lt. Greg Moran, a member of the Wright-Patterson team who is also assigned to the Aeronautical Systems Center there. "Our energy and drive is very high, and we were eager to do something or to get something accomplished, but our leader urged us to continue our research."
The additional research paid off for the group, who started the contest with a total of 30 ideas. Through a variety of testing, discussions and other rules of logic, the total was reduced to 15, and currently, the Wright-Patterson squad has six or seven viable solutions.
Besides solving the engineering problem within all of the required constraints, other challenges the Wright- Patterson team faced during the past four months involved working through the proper use of facilities, vehicle registration policies, as well as purchasing procedures and cycles.
"Our tools have been another challenge. They were not designed for our use so we have had to be creative in designing the tools we use," said 1st Lt. Philip Gaudet.
One of the most exciting moments for the Ohiobased group occurred when one of their prototypes stopped a moving vehicle. "When we actually saw it stop, we were really excited. This was the positive reinforcement we needed," 1st Lt. Christopher Prosser said.
Support and mentoring for the Kirtland AFB group has been provided by its leaders at the Space Countermeasures Hands On Program while the Wright-Patterson AFB team has received guidance from its leaders at the Operational Technology Program. Both programs are designed to assist junior Air Force personnel in completing tasked missions, within a three to four-month period, and expose the vulnerabilities of current and future systems and assets by using open source information.
"We have felt a sense of urgency since day one, and I think our team has responded. The importance of success and failure is higher with this project," said 1st Lt. Kenneth McDougall, an electrical engineer. "We have resolved problems quickly. Due to their terrific mentorship, the Space CHOP staff has shown us a way of analyzing problems outside of the box."
"This has been intriguing to me, as well as appealing to work on a project to make a difference. The camaraderie here has been the most valuable part of the experience for me so far," said Jaton Wince, a mechanical engineer. "I have been involved with research and development since 1998 and it has been interesting to pull together some of the things I have learned in the past and put them to use here. I am feeling the pressure as it is crunch time."