REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.– The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, but for Blaine Perry and his family, it will be the year he took a chance on a program that changed the course of his career.
“I applied in February, in May I was informed that I was selected, and we had to move to Pittsburgh in June,” explained Perry, a Department of the Army engineer at the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center.
Perry had been selected as a member of the inaugural cohort of “Artificial Intelligence Scholars”, a group of five DA civilians and 20 Army officers participating in a two-year program at Carnegie Mellon University. Perry ultimately obtained a master’s degree in information systems management with a focus on business intelligence and Data Analytics. CMU was selected by the U.S. Army Futures Command to lead a five-year contract to support research and development of an innovation framework for Advanced Algorithms, Autonomy, and Artificial Intelligence (A4I).
Perry, his wife, and two children made the move to Pennsylvania so he could start the coursework, which due to the global pandemic, was conducted almost entirely online.
“I knew I was going to go up there and get a world class education, but I didn’t know what really to expect from that”, said Perry, “I knew it was going to be for AI and machine learning – knew it would be rigorous – what I didn’t expect was to see how the techniques worked and how businesses are using these technologies.”
This program came about because the Army needs skilled personnel in the artificial intelligence field to support Army modernization. The launch of the Artificial Intelligence Integration Center (AI2C) allows the Army to better connect with the broader artificial intelligence community and focus its efforts in this dynamic field. As part of U.S. Army Futures Command, the AI2C leverages the AI Hub and engages universities and companies from across the nation by building upon initial successes at Carnegie Mellon University and the robotics and AI communities in Pittsburgh and Austin, Texas.
While all but the final semester was held virtually for the course, Perry formed friendships with his classmates, attending regular gatherings and forming a bond with the rest of the Army cohort during the program.
Perry and his family, including his young children, got to visit many museums and see the Great Lakes during their time in Pennsylvania. “Overall, this was a great experience – the education and the degree coming out of it is just icing on the cake,” he remarked upon returning to RTC.
Prior to the course, Perry was a Flight Test Engineer at RTC’s Aviation Flight Test Directorate. Now he’s serving as the center’s first Chief Data Scientist in RTC’s Advanced Technology Office.
“I’m leading the data modernization efforts at RTC,” Perry explained, “If we can use our data to better understand what happened in the past, we can make better future decisions. By looking at our data as a strategic asset, we are going to bring a lot of value to everyone - from the tech working the test to the decision maker evaluating the system.”
Perry is now putting what he learned in Pennsylvania to good use here at RTC. He is using that education and expertise to stand up and work on programs that will help bridge the gap for the future, and the use of cutting-edge technologies will make everyone’s lives easier – one step at a time.