Engineering collaboration leads to benefits for Rowan University, Army

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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. by Kristen Kushiyama — Quid pro quo. That’s the relationship established by the U.S. Army and Rowan University when it comes to their collaborative research in support of the Army and training America’s future workforce.

The Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications-electronics center, or RDECOM CERDEC, has established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, in order to work together to advance Army technologies in the areas of mission command, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance networks and systems.

Ryan Fillman and Metin Ahiskali, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate engineers and Rowan University alumni, spearheaded a collaboration agreement between Rowan in Glassboro, N.J. and CERDEC I2WD here, in which Rowan students take courses, called clinics, in order to gain exposure to practical applications of engineering.

Typically the clinic courses align with master’s students’ and professors’ areas of research. During the course, graduate and undergraduate students test different systems applicable to Army needs and requirements with the help and guidance of professors and fellow graduate students, said Fillman.

By working with the government the university can fulfill its “hunger” for collaboration, said Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam, Rowan University associate provost for research and executive director of the South Jersey Technology Park.

“Rowan University is driven to engage with government and industry in leveraging the R&D capabilities of our faculty and benefitting our students to gain real-world experiences that will enable them to be competitive in the workplace,” said Mandayam, who noted the university also collaborates with other universities, industry members, federal and state agencies, municipalities, local governments, and entrepreneurs.

Many of the technologies students work on are directly applicable to Army programs.

One technology students have had the opportunity to work with since the Spring 2011 semester is the Army’s Remote Monitoring System, a wireless remote sentry monitoring sensor that can be left unattended for years, which sends information over far distances to Soldiers at a base station. Rowan students worked on automated calibration procedures for the RMS.

“The calibration is important in improving the direction finding accuracy of the system,” said Fillman. “Rowan’s research has improved the calibration accuracy as well as automated it.”

Students will continue working on the RMS calibration project during this school year, and a graduate student will do a thesis related to the project, said Fillman.

“The students get real world experience that will be applicable after graduation,” said Fillman.
Working with the students also gives CERDEC the chance to look at “up and comers” for possible jobs, said Mark Farwell, CERDEC I2WD Cyber ISR team lead.

“Not only does this CRADA allow I2WD to collaboratively research areas important to the Army, it also allows us the opportunity to offer these students job opportunities as they become available,” said Farwell.

The Army and university association with research and technology is beneficial not just to the organizations for the purpose of building a stronger U.S. workforce and making advancements, but to the students and faculty as well.

“When students engage with faculty in their research enterprise, they are provided with unique opportunities to expand their work experience and will enable them to compete for jobs, not only with the U.S. Army but elsewhere in government and private industry,” said Mandayam.

The feedback from students has been positive according to Dr. John Schmalzel, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rowan University.

“Students are enthusiastic about having the opportunity to work on this project,” said Schmalzel. “It involves state-of-art tools and methodologies, demonstrates the nature of the type of problems that are important to an important industry, application sector; provides the opportunity to work with engineers whose skill sets closely match theirs; and may provide opportunities for post-graduate employment.”

“This type of agreement provides an opportunity to demonstrate what students can accomplish- often exceeding expectations based on the assumed level of sophistication from junior- and senior-level engineering students,” said Schmalzel.