America’s Army Platform Trains Soldiers in Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Dr. Bernard Reger is an engineer at the US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) located at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ. He is the lead for Business Planning and Development at the Armament Software Engineering Center, a CMMI Maturity Model 5 rated life cycle software engineering center, responsible for development, management, and sustainment of our Soldiers’ software intensive systems.

Picatinny recently received a patent for the process to train Soldiers to operate robotic vehicles, such as the Talon and PackBot, using a virtual operator control unit within a virtual environment, based upon the “America’s Army” interactive videogame. Courtesy photo.

Picatinny recently received a patent for the process to train Soldiers to operate robotic vehicles, such as the Talon and PackBot, using a virtual operator control unit within a virtual environment, based upon the “America’s Army” interactive videogame. Courtesy photo.

Tron.  It was 1982 and the world watched as Kevin Flynn was sucked into his computer by a laser pointed at his back.  We watched the laser scan and pull him into the computer.  For the next hour or so, Flynn battled his way through a computer generated world.  Like most computer ‘geeks’ of my generation, I was captivated.  ‘Programs’ were beaten in disc games and de-rezzed, but they were only computer generated.  I was so looking forward to buying my own person sucking laser.

Time moves on and we all grow up.  First I go to Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY) and get a degree in Physics.  Then it’s off to get my Masters and PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University (Evanston and Chicago, IL).

Fast forward to the present: I am an engineer at the Armament Software Engineering Center at the U.S. Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.  The challenge: our Soldiers in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (that’s mil-speak for bomb squad) use state-of-the-art robots, such as Qinetiq TALON and iRobot PackBot, to disarm or destroy explosive devices placed by our enemies.  Soldiers want to practice on the robot as much as possible before they are tasked on a mission with life or death consequences, but most of them are already being used and aren’t always available for training.

Enter Tron, or something like it.  The America’s Army game (at the time of writing) has 12 million registered users who have virtually experienced Soldiering in the U.S. Army.  Using the America’s Army platform, our team’s goal was to insert the Soldier and his robot into the virtual world.  At the core of our solution lies a software architecture that enables the team to quickly build virtual robots and training tools. We create a virtual world for the robot to drive around in, create objects to drive under, over, and through, and explosives for the Soldier to dispose of.  The Soldiers use the real robot controller to operate the virtual robot and acquire the experience they need.  If they make a mistake and the explosive destroys the robot, they hit the reset button and try again.

Members of the ARDEC Software Engineering Center celebrate a major achievement in attaining Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Maturity Level 5.

Members of the ARDEC Software Engineering Center celebrate a major achievement in attaining Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Maturity Level 5.

It’s a great and rewarding place to work.  We use cutting edge software and computing technology to deliver products to our Soldiers that work the right way every time they turn it on.  To hear that our hard work helped a Soldier make it out of a tough fight and helped save lives, that’s why we do it.

I’m still waiting for my laser.

For more information about ARDEC’s EOD Trainers visit : http://www.army.mil/article/53259/ or http://www.army.mil/article/11662/next-mission-conquering-the-virtual-battlefield/

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About Carla Voorhees

Carla Voorhees has always been interested in science, from the time she grew string beans under varying conditions for the science fair (3rd grade) to the time she took every math and science class she could during high school. As her path during college and beyond took her somewhat away from the hard sciences, she is thrilled to be a part of the Armed With Science team. Carla holds a B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2007), and an M.B.A. in Design Strategy from the California College of the Arts (2010). She works as a Web Strategist at DOD Public Web.
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