Training has immediate application for Hanscom engineers

  • Published
  • By Jessica Casserly
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A custom-designed digital engineering course is empowering Hanscom engineers with new tools and skills to accomplish the mission in faster, more innovative ways.

This graduate-level pilot program, a partnership between Hanscom, the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, gives Hanscom engineers experience in the use of digital engineering methods, models and strategies. Twenty Hanscom engineers are participating in the first of four semester-long courses, Systems Models and Simulation for Digital Engineering, at the UMass Lowell Research Institute’s Northstar campus in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Chris Perez, an electronics engineer for the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate’s Kill Chain Integration Branch, said the course was offered at an excellent time in his career.

“With the Department of Defense push toward more digital engineering, my role seems destined for more involvement with that aspect of systems engineering,” he said. “Standing up the model-based systems engineering effort for my program will soon be one of my primary tasks, so having this background and training will be invaluable in achieving those goals.”

Engineers in the course are learning to use CATIA MagicDraw, a visual modeling tool that allows users to analyze and design object-oriented systems and databases. The tool also supports collaboration among teams.

Perez and his fellow classmates are only about halfway through the first course, but he said he’s already more comfortable with the new tool and how it applies to his work at Hanscom.

“Overall, I think this [course] will greatly aid my ability to perform my assigned duties,” he said. “My program is in the process of accessing these resources for modeling and after just one class of hands-on work with the tools, I already felt much more confident in my ability to put them to good use.”

Jetta Rackleff, a Systems Engineering lead for the Digital Directorate’s Force Protection Modernization Branch, said she was able to immediately incorporate CATIA MagicDraw into her program.

“I am assisting the Force Protection Division with pioneering their digital engineering efforts,” she said. “One item we’re focused on is how to include digital engineering-related contract data requirement lists in our modernization contracts. Understanding what to request in CDRLs to ensure we meet the intent of digital engineering transformation is critical. Having a powerful tool like MagicDraw to request as a deliverable allows us to immediately leverage digital engineering modeling.”

Rackleff said the training she’s received through this partnership has given her the knowledge and skills needed to become proficient in other software.

“What we’ve learned in this course has given me the foundational understanding needed to build model bases and digital twins,” she said. “Once bases are modeled, Force Protection personnel can leverage these virtual realities we’ve built to run simulated threat scenarios and mitigate issues before they arise.”

Perez and Rackleff said they’re both excited to see where this program takes them and hope more Air Force engineers have the opportunity to benefit from digital engineering training programs like this one.

“A lot of us have degrees that are not directly related to our projects,” Perez said. “While the Air Force is great at training its personnel, there’s really nothing quite like a technical course taught by experts in the field.”

Rackleff added that having more Air Force engineers proficient in how to use and assess digital engineering tools will help with industry engagement for future Air Force contracts.

“Being trained on the tools we will evaluate contractors on allows us to reduce risk, shorten schedule timelines, and lessen costs related to technical maturity of Air Force products,” she said.

The first course in this pilot program is scheduled to wrap-up in early May and Hanscom students are scheduled to begin the second course this summer.