Picatinny teams up with West Point on technology research
July 25, 2011
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Picatinny Arsenal and the United States Military Academy have formed a closer relationship to enhance mutual research capabilities.
The Program Executive Office (PEO) for Ammunition, and the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) here have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to promote the Army’s efforts in research, development and acquisition.
The agreement establishes a sabbatical fellowship program for USMA faculty at PEO Ammunition and continues an existing research faculty fellowship with ARDEC.
It was signed by the PEO for Ammunition, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Maddux, ARDEC Director Dr. Gerardo Melendez, and West Point Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor.
Through the fellowship, academy faculty has the opportunity to work at nearby Picatinny for up to a year as they support programs at ARDEC and PEO Ammunition.
“If you look at all the departmental disciplines that are at West Point and look at the different programs Picatinny has, there’s a lot of interesting, matching synergy,” explained Paul Manz, PEO Ammunition’s chief scientist and the program coordinator for the agreement.
“West Point has a cadre of faculty, both military and civilian, who have advanced education, lots of knowledge and are looking for interesting topics to apply their knowledge to. Picatinny has lots of programs that are relevant, interesting, and make a difference in ensuring Soldiers come home to their families.”
In addition to the research the West Point faculty will conduct at Picatinny, Manz hopes the fellowships can serve as an incubator for additional ideas that could help benefit the Army.
“Once that faculty member is finished with the fellowship and returns to West Point, they might say ‘Gee, there were things that came up that I didn’t have time to address during my sabbatical, but would be great topics for my Cadets to work on.’ ”
West Point leadership agrees on the value of the fellowships.
“At first we only had MOAs that allowed us to send Cadets down to Picatinny,” said Col. John Graham, the academy’s Associate Dean for Research.
“Then we coordinated the fellowship program so instead of teaching four sections, our faculty might teach two sections at West Point and then spend the rest of their time at Picatinny. Now we’re freeing faculty for up to a year to work with Picatinny.”
Graham, whose job is to encourage research opportunities for Cadets and faculty, said the fellowships and sabbaticals benefit West Point by making the professors experts in relevant subjects, as well as making them more informed teachers.
“The idea of a sabbatical is that every seventh year in the world of academia, we try to free our Ph.D.s up to regain credibility and connection in their field. The idea that academia is an ivory tower is somewhat true " our staff are located on a post with limited access to others in the field, while the field is changing.”
“Picatinny offers a really unique opportunity, because the faculty won’t disconnect from the force during their sabbaticals. Their time away is spent pursuing endeavors that are critical to the academy, and the Army,” Graham said.
Dr. Christopher Conley, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at West Point, participated in a year-long research fellowship with ARDEC from June 2008 through July 2009.
As a civil engineering professor Conley was interested in furthering research in infrastructure systems. During his sabbatical with ARDEC’s Energetics, Warhead and Manufacturing Directorate, he focused on improving the resistance of ultra-high performance concretes to penetration from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
He also worked with ARDEC staff from the Counter Terrorism Technology Team, the Operational Simulation and Analysis Branch, and the America’s Army Picatinny Group on the development of realistic Entry Control Point (ECP) models, simulation algorithms and visualization capabilities to evaluate the effectiveness of ECP technologies.
Combining ARDEC and Army Research Laboratory support, he formed a research team of faculty and cadets at West Point who experimented with a variety of methods to pre-stress and confine ultra-high performance concrete to develop a material that would be more resistant to effects of IEDs.
Conley said his fellowship with ARDEC gave him new perspectives to incorporate into his teaching, and also provided insight into the research, development and acquisition process.
“Some of the things you think make the greatest sense and should be easy, aren’t easy. So I gained a real appreciation for the process of taking a concept, developing it into something a Soldier can use and putting in Soldier’s hands. That was an eye-opener. It takes a lot of energy to do that.”
Even though Picatinny specializes in the research, development and life-cycle management of weapons systems, the West Point fellowship is open to faculty members of all departments, not just science and engineering professors.
A member of the history department at West Point will be the first faculty to participate in a sabbatical with PEO Ammunition.
Col. Ty Seidule, head of military history, will lead a team of eight to 10 historians as they work with PEO Ammunition’s Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems office to research the history and impact of artillery transformations in warfare.
“We’re looking at this to try to determine how artillery affected warfare in the past,” Seidule said. “And while we can’t predict the future, we can gain insight on the various ways artillery could be used today and possibly how it could be used in the future by looking at evidence in the past.”
In addition to collaborating with West Point faculty, Picatinny also regularly interacts with Cadets.
They visit Picatinny four times a year to tour the research facilities and learn about Picatinny’s mission. They also regularly team up with Picatinny engineers for summer research projects called Advanced Individual Academic Development projects, or AIADs.
For one proposed project, Manz said Cadets studying kinesiology--the study of motion--will be researching gun crew members to determine what happens to their bodies over time when they lift and move ammunition that is significantly heavier. They are researching this because the Army is replacing many 105mm M119 cannons in its Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) with 155mm M777 assets, which have correspondingly heavier ammunition compared to their 105mm counterparts.
Much like the faculty sabbaticals, Cadet research projects benefit the Army and enhance the Cadet’s educational experience.
“We’re an academic institution. The top reason we get engaged in research is that we know we’re getting a better product at graduation,” Graham said. “That means our Cadets at graduation are more creative thinkers, able to take on ambiguous problems and solve them.”
In the past, Graham said that instead of real military issues, Cadets were given drill problems. For instance, they were provided a list of hypothetical materials and asked to build a bridge.
“For the original way of doing things, the students could put in a finite amount of work and then be done. What we’re finding since working with Picatinny is that this hands-on experience is inspirational. Our senior leaders and professors get the students fired up to work extra hard for the project. (The product’s) going to be employed and somebody is going to use this project.”