Ben Williams, a member of the Systems Equipment and Engineering Team at the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, will receive the Wayne E. Meyer Award for Outstanding Student in Systems Engineering.

The award is presented to an outstanding DOD graduate of the systems engineering degree distance-learning program at the Naval Postgraduate School who has demonstrated superior academic performance. Williams will graduate Sept. 23 from NPS.

Williams led a group of 13 other students whose capstone/thesis project was entitled "Shelter Options for Humanitarian Assistance." The project involved using systems-engineering methods to develop, build and test a conceptual design for a Humanitarian Aid Shelter System (HASS).

"We worked closely with (U.S. Agency for International Development) and Navy Pacific Command to basically fill the gap they had in the six-month to three-year post-disaster time frame," said Williams, "where people don't really have adequate shelter and sufficient tools to meet their needs."

According to Williams, the HASS uses a simple design.

"We ended up coming out with a system that was pretty lean," Williams said. "It's basically a pre-packaged system that comes on two, standard wooden pallets so it can be transported on anything. It basically just includes the basic tools and shelter you would need to survive, and by using a context-driven approach to shelter, we were able to utilize local and salvageable materials by integrating them in the shelter frame, allowing disaster victims to transition their shelter into a more permanent form of housing."

Those tools, said Williams, include a shelter, equipment for cooking, water purification, water and food storage, lighting, and an inexpensive two-way radio. The system can accommodate five to 10 people.

"Since everything's on pallets, you can basically configure it any way you want," Williams said.
Word of the Meyer award caught Williams by surprise.

"I didn't know there was an award. I wasn't expecting that," said Williams, who passed along credit to the rest of his capstone/thesis group. "I think everybody else is just as deserving of the award as I am."

Williams, a Needham, Mass., native, graduated in 2009 from Northeastern University with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology. That same year, he entered the degree program in systems engineering at NPS.

"I've been working here for over five years," said the 25-year-old Williams of Natick. "I started here as a (cooperative education) student. I thought it was an interesting place to work. It's a good place to work. It's a good team.

"I do a lot of different stuff. If you tie yourself up into one area and only focus on one thing, you kind of miss the big picture."