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REDSTONE ARSENAL, ALA. (Aug. 9, 2021) – COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of life and internships have not been immune to that upheaval.

But flexibility can be the key to success and the U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center has not let its internship program languish – especially when it comes to the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship-for-Service Program. It just looks a little different in 2021, with many internships, including the SMART Scholars, operating virtually.

“The SMART Scholarship is a scholarship-for-service award,” said Dr. James Stephenson, aviation acoustics subject matter expert in the Technology Development Directorate, and himself a SMART Scholar of the 2011 cohort. “For the number of years the Department of Defense funds a student’s academic studies, they owe the government that many years of civilian service, in return. The benefits to this scholarship are mutual, the student has a defined government job upon graduation -- which reduces stress while in school. The government has a known hire coming at a defined date in the future, and that hire is usually exempt from potential future hiring freezes, as the government has already committed to the hiring action.

“The student also completes a summer internship with their facility, and so begins to get a solid understanding of their future job before they ever begin full time work as a civil servant.”

SMART Scholars at the graduate level conduct research that is agreed upon between the facility, student and graduate advisor, with the graduate advisor retaining the final say on what research is pursued. This allows DEVCOM AvMC to train the right candidate to fill a need it has in its workforce.

“Several years ago, we tragically lost a valuable member of the rotorcraft acoustics team when suddenly Dr. Ben Sim passed away at a young age,” Stephenson said. “Dr. Sim had an impressive research breadth, having the significant ability to do both rotorcraft acoustic predictions from low-fidelity to the highest fidelities, but he also conducted acoustic wind tunnel tests. This capability set is usually found within three distinct researchers, those at low-fidelity, high-fidelity, and wind tunnel testing. So, to have all three of these capabilities in a single researcher is astounding, but also left a significant hole in our ranks with his departure.

“That is where the SMART Scholarship enters into the equation. TDD was able to identify a phenomenal student from past internships, Daniel Weitsman, and mutually direct his research, in conjunction with his research advisor, Dr. Eric Greenwood, to fill the gap that we have.”

Weitsman, a student at Pennsylvania State University said that the draw of the program to him was that it provides him with an internship in a field that he enjoys. Even though his internship is virtual, Weitsman said that he has still been able to establish professional relationships with his co-workers.

“I applied to the SMART Scholarship Program after interning at the NASA Langley Research Center, where I worked closely with Dr. Stephenson on conducting an experiment regarding the noise emissions of small-scale rotors,” Weitsman said. “I really enjoyed this experience and decided to apply to the program to expand my knowledge in aeroacoustics and continue my involvement in the field.”

Although Weitsman is completing his internship remotely, he still found benefits in pursuing the program that will benefit his future career.

“Due to the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, I haven’t had a chance to work for AvMC in person,” Weitsman said. “However, I have met some of the team and they have provided invaluable advice that has informed the research that I am doing towards my master’s degree.”

For more information about the SMART Scholarship Program, visit www.smartscholarship.org/smart.

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The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.