NATICK, Mass. -- Imagination, innovation, and collaboration were the focus of the 2035 Future Soldier Concepts in a Multi-Domain Operations Environment event, highlighting the collaboration between the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The recent event was co-hosted by CCDC SC and WPI and took place at WPI's Foisie Innovation Studio in Worcester, Mass.

CCDC SC and WPI have a longtime, mutually beneficial relationship. WPI is a source of an outstanding talent pipeline of undergrad, grad and PhD students flowing into CCDC SC. CCDC SC provides these students with one-of-a-kind mentorship opportunities from world-class scientists and engineers, as well as the opportunity to work on real-world problems. Many students go on to participate in CCDC SC's WPI Cohort Program to become CCDC SC employees.

CCDC SC is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. Although CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams are the CCDC SC's chief areas of focus. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance.

The WPI Cohort Program is led by Mathew Correa, CCDC SC's Acquisition Career Manager Advocate, or ACMA. The program is intended to provide professional development opportunities for new career employees.

The recent event focusing on 2035 Future Soldier Concepts in a Multi-Domain Operations environment included presentations by CCDC SC, other governmental partners and WPI innovators, as well as opportunities for WPI cohorts to brainstorm and present concepts, which were judged by WPI alumni, WPI professors, and CCDC SC scientists and engineers.

"It's all about partnership and enabling cross disciplines to work collectively on complex problems in an iterative fashion," said Correa. He challenged the group to be both a mentor and a mentee to establish a mindset of continuous learning.

Rachel Bachelder, an engineering psychologist at CCDC SC, was one of the Acquisition cohorts who participated in the event.

"The cohort program allows each of us a unique opportunity to rotate through the workforce alongside mentors while allowing you to gain technical experience and tactical exposure across multiple areas," said Bachelder. "It is the exploration of the vast basic and applied research opportunities that helped me find my place within CCDC SC. Our relationship with WPI has proven to be mutually beneficial by opening students' eyes to the fact that there is much to be learned about Soldiers, but even on a micro level, they are already subject matter experts on something vital to the warfighter."

The event served to advance the partnerships that already exist between the two science and technology leaders. The partnerships are carried out under a Master Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (2016), facilitating collaboration and the exchange of information, and an Education Partnership Agreement (2017).

CCDC SC's collaboration with WPI allows CCDC SC to benefit from the analytical and creative thinking abilities of WPI faculty and students. WPI faculty, students and cohorts, in turn, have the opportunity to learn from the technical expertise of CCDC SC scientists and engineers based on a current and future operations framework.

Dr. Bogdan Vernescu, the vice provost for Research at WPI, provided an overview of WPI and its vast programs and initiatives. With a nod to future technology and engineering innovations, Vernescu pointed out that WPI was the first university to offer a degree in Robotics Engineering.
"Research and great teaching -- that's what we believe in," said Vernescu.

In 2016, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology awarded the WPI Robotics program the inaugural ABET Innovation Award for developing and implementing the first ABET-accredited undergraduate Robotics Engineering program in the United States.

Vernescu also highlighted some of the projects that WPI is working on with the CCDC Soldier Center, such as nanomaterials for solo-driven water decontamination and fiber-optic sensors for food processing.

Col. Frank Moore, CCDC SC's military deputy, presented at the event. Moore said that the relationship between WPI and CCDC SC is an important one. WPI is supporting CCDC SC in its S&T mission while CCDC SC is providing students from WPI with the invaluable opportunity to be exposed to, and gain an understanding of, the environment and the context in which Soldiers operate, as well as a chance to approach and possibly solve tough, real-world problems.

Col. Ron Corsetti is the East Coast lead for the 75th Innovation Command. The command serves as the Army Reserve element that provides direct support to the Army Futures Command.

Corsetti believes that collaborations like the one between CCDC SC and WPI are important. He said it is essential to reach out to all domains of knowledge and to align mutual needs and interests to fuel innovation.

"It's all about the talent," said Corsetti. "National security is the responsibility of all citizens. We need to work together."