Increasing the quantity and experience level of graduates available for hire from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), as well as accelerating the development of those institutions’ ability to become qualified with technical prowess to provide engineering and research services to the Army was the genesis behind a new diversity and inclusion initiative.
Project Manager for Aircraft Survivability Equipment (PM ASE), the Army Acquisition organization with the mission of developing and fielding systems that maximize the survivability of Army aircrew and aircraft, recently entered into an Applied Research Partnership with Alabama A&M University (AAMU) a HBCU, Tougaloo College Research Development Foundation (TCRDF) a HBCU, Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), and DEVCOM/U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (CCDC AvMC).
Spearheading the effort that kicked-off last month is Darrell Quarles the technical lead for PM ASE.
“We are supporting this diversity and inclusion initiative to help HBCUs and MSIs to participate in more applied research with the DoD,” said Quarles. “Many of these universities conduct research in areas that could support us, but they are not applied directly to technologies that we require for our program use today.”
The three main goals of the partnership are to: 1) Mentor & mature HBCU/MSI DoD research capabilities and capacity, 2) Facilitate funding HBCU/MSI with DoD research sponsored projects and 3) Increase HBCU/MSI students & graduates in the DoD workforce.
PM ASE chose to support AAMU due to its proximity to the Huntsville, AL, DoD community, its relevant undergraduate and graduate engineering programs and its Research, Innovation, Science and Engineering (RISE) Foundation.
“The RISE Foundation was stood up to handle contract opportunities for the university”, said Dr. Andrew Scott, AAMU-RISE Foundation Professor and Interim Coordinator. “The university has experience with Cyber Security, engineering services, AI, elctro-optics, Sensors Fusion, high performance computing that can be applied to support the Army.”
“We took a hard look at AAMU’s core competencies, what research have they been working on, what are the capabilities of their research professors and their graduate students,” said Quarles.
After conducting the research, PM ASE is matching AAMU with unclassified opportunities that will allow the university to gain an initial understanding of the ASE mission and identify areas they can support. The first task the partners will work on is geared toward supporting Missile Warning products, utilizing AAMU’s Artificial Intelligence expertise.
As a part of the overall initiative, other university research programs will provide information on how to set-up the infrastructure and address requirements to stand-up secure facilities required to support much of the government opportunities that HBCUs and MSIs can potentially support.
For the next steps in the partnership PM ASE will increase the technical scope over time and then introduce AAMU into the classified requirements as they have the infrastructure stood up.
In addition to creating contract opportunities, the partnership is designed to create a greater exposure of DoD programs and career opportunities for HBCU and MSI students.
“We want to work with the undergraduate and graduate programs to mentor their students and provide internship opportunities and training opportunities with PM ASE and partnering organizations labs,” said Quarles. “Ultimately this could be a conduit to recruit students and bring increased diversity into our workforce.”
Scott noted that the partnership will create an opportunity for RISE to hold clearances, which will increase the marketability of students upon graduation.
“Ultimately this partnership gives us an opportunity to bring more capabilities to bare across DoD from Higher Education institutions,” said Quarles. “We are excited and proud to be able to support diversity and inclusion while giving us an opportunity to create technology for the Army.”