Not all technology is developed by doctors in lab coats with years of education and research behind them – some of the most useful applications come from some very young and inexperienced, but very bright minds.
These same young minds represent an invaluable future workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for the Air Force and for the Dayton community.
The education they receive from the Air Force Research Laboratory 711th Human Performance Wing’s Gaming Research Integration for Learning Lab (GRILL) has significant
benefit, not just to its student interns, but to Air Force research efforts and to the area’s STEM education efforts.
Most recently, the GRILL ended its fourth consecutive summer hosting students from the Wright Scholar program. Seven high school teachers, 14 Wright Scholars, six undergraduate and graduate-level mentors, and two pre-service teacher interns served in a nine-week internship focused on 3-D modeling, simulation and game engine technology.
During the internship, GRILL students evaluate, extend and demonstrate commercial, off-the-shelf 3-D modeling and game engine technology with potential to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Air Force training.
“Students enter our lab and are expected to conduct research and complete work related to modeling and simulation. Most have had little to no experience in programming or modeling, and jump right into the work,” said GRILL program lead and behavioral scientist, 2nd Lt. Megan Taylor, 711 HPW.
AFRL’s GRILL team, in collaboration with industry leaders, focuses on identifying how these technologies may be integrated into existing and future training capabilities for a number of U.S. Air Force training audiences.
Training audiences from the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, for example, will benefit directly from a simulation implementation application developed by GRILL students this year.
According to AFRL Warfighter Readiness Research Division technical advisor, Dr. Winston “Wink” Bennett, working with students enables the Air Force to evaluate more technologies in a shorter amount of time and at a lower cost to the taxpayer.
The GRILL is able to take lessons the students learned regarding 3-D modeling and game engine tools and apply them directly to warfighter-focused research and development projects.
“So, we not only get technologies identified and vetted, in many cases, we also have capabilities that are mature enough for transition to the Air Force right out of the summer work,” said Bennett.
The GRILL team also collaborates with local educators and students to enable student achievement by introducing game-based modeling and simulation and current Air Force research and engineering problems into high school STEM content.
In 2011, the GRILL developed a capstone project for a semester-long high school modeling and simulation course that has since been piloted in 12 school districts in the Dayton area.
“Many of the students we have working with us today will show up in the workforce down the road,” Bennett said. “When I say workforce, it’s the extended workforce – that includes them being in the recruit pool for jobs here at the lab, or with one of our industry partners, but also it’s just the fact that they will make a difference no matter where they go.”
“Everyone wins in this kind of thing,” added Bennett. “A true win-win for the community, for the Air Force and for the nation.”