DAYTON, Ohio – Nearly 500 research scientists and engineers from the Air Force Research Laboratory gathered at the Dayton Art Institute Oct. 26 for the second annual AFRL Inspire event.
Inspire is a series of talks that seek to energize current and future Air Force scientists and engineers. The event consisted of talks by AFRL researchers who have made important discoveries, solved complex technical challenges, developed new Air Force capabilities, and directly impacted the safety and mission success of the warfighter.
A line up of six speakers from across AFRL delivered 12-17 minute talks about various research achievements with each featuring AFRL scientists and engineers tackling challenges for the benefit of Airmen and society.
The AFRL Inspire event series is the idea of Dan Berrigan, AFRL Materials Research Engineer, and Kerianne Gross, AFRL Research Aerospace Engineer.
“Ultimately we found ourselves inspired by organizations like TED and TEDx Dayton, who have found a way to make complex topics accessible to a broad audience,” said Berrigan.
Gross described AFRL Inspire as a unique opportunity for AFRL scientists and engineers to highlight their research and engage the current and future AFRL workforce.
“AFRL Inspire talks are designed to pull people out of their daily grind to be reminded of the impact of our work,” said Gross. “When the AFRL Inspire speakers tell their stories, they tell our story as a lab.”
“This is one of those times when you truly get to just sit back and be really be proud of what goes on here,” said Maj. Gen. Robert D. McMurry Jr., commander of AFRL, in addressing those in the audience during his opening remarks.
This year’s event was kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Wayne Chappelle from the Airman System’s Directorate with a presentation exploring the psychology of a hero. “I was inspired to find out what traits separate those who make it in Air Force Special Operations training and on the battlefield and those who don’t,” said Chappelle.
Not only did he figure it out, he created an app for it.
Dr. Wendy Goodson of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate was up next with the second presentation. When the Air Force was developing a system to nondestructively decontaminate aircraft from harmful contagions, they called her and her team to help, she said. Her team used their resources to figure out what biological threats the decontamination approach could kill.
Next up was Dr. Chris Erickson, whose background at AFRL is in cold atom technology – a topic not very easily explained. Not to be discouraged, Erickson learned how to describe his highly technical work so well that he was hired to be AFRL’s speech writer. His presentation was on how to talk about what you do without losing your marbles.
A brief intermission followed, featuring interactive social media posts made during the event by the audience members as well as the premiere of AFRL’s Maker Hub promotional video. In August, AFRL initiated a one-year Maker Hub pilot program to encourage AFRL employees to explore ideas, test tools and build prototypes that might inspire or enhance innovative Air Force technologies, while fostering a creative workplace culture.
Following intermission, Dr. Fred Schauer of the Aerospace Systems Directorate delivered a presentation about a very out of the box way to solve the Air Force’s fuel cost problems. Rather than just looking at problems associated with alternative fuels, Schauer turned the problem around and asked how might we free up the fuel resources which power our Air Force by coming up with a design for a power plant that uses tidal energy to power all of North America at a fraction of what we currently pay for energy.
Next, Dr. Charles Kamhoua, a computer scientist with AFRL’s Information Directorate, spoke about similarities he discovered between how we can protect our information and the competitive nature of a game. Kamhoua spoke of the immense impact that cyber-attacks have in the world, including the breach of credit card databases and stealing of sensitive science and technology information. Using a mathematical game theory, he developed new methods to keep identity and information thieves out of our systems.
Closing out this year’s Inspire presentations was Dr. Jeff Heggemeier, a physicist from AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate. Heggemeier and his team have seen firsthand the dangers of improvised explosive devices. He and his team developed a technology that uses microwaves to destroy IEDs from safe distances and they then deployed to Afghanistan to test the technology, nicknamed MAX POWER, by riding in front of Marine Corps convoys to take out IEDs.
"The AFRL Inspire Team built upon last year's success, creating a truly high-energy, engaging program," said Dr. Morley Stone, AFRL's Chief Technology Officer. “Since the beginning, we’ve really had three goals we wanted to achieve out of this series. Goal number one was to foster a sense of community across the lab, so that all our sites could begin to join together in a single event at the same time and get to see the second goal which was actually highlighting our staff and being able to share and celebrate in the successes they’ve had. It is one thing to share in that success with somebody down the hall, but what we really want to foster is that shared success across our entire enterprise, even for those workers that are many miles from us. The third goal is to showcase our people – the belief that our people are second to none.”
Videos from AFRL Inspire 2016 will soon be available at AFRL’s YouTube Channel. Next year, the event is scheduled to be held at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.