First cohort graduates digital engineering program, gains vital skills

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

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Officials from Team Hanscom, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently gathered to celebrate the first cohort to complete a custom-designed digital engineering certificate program.

Seventeen Hanscom AFB engineers successfully finished the graduate-level digital engineering program, which was developed and funded through a partnership between Hanscom AFB, UML, the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, and MassDevelopment. The graduating cohort participated in four semester-long courses, focused on digital engineering methods, models and strategies.

“In order to take Air Force engineering to the next level, we need to understand digital engineering and model-based systems engineering,” said Joe Bradley, director for Information Dominance Programs for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and former director of Engineering and Technical Management at Hanscom AFB.

University representatives worked closely with Bradley and Hanscom AFB personnel to develop a curriculum that would meet Air Force requirements.

“This program resulted from a specific need on base,” said Tom O’Donnell, the senior director of Innovation and Workforce Development Initiatives at UML and director of the UML Innovation Hub. “There was a need to think more systematically; to use model-based system engineering; to have the tools, the mindset, the capability to deal with these large-scale, complex information systems. All of these graduates have set the foundation that we’re going to build on moving forward.”

John Beatty, MASS Task Force executive director, said the reason this program came together from concept to completion so quickly is because of the agility of all the partners.

“This program is special,” he said. “It’s so nice to see federal and state government and the education system working together. It’s a big deal and it’s also a great example of the type of teamwork that leads to getting things done.”

Bradley said this initiative is very important to the Air Force and thanked the graduates for “stepping up and sticking with” the program.

“I really want you to embrace what you’ve learned,” he said. “You have to implement this knowledge and show the program managers, the financial managers and other acquisition professionals why this works. Show them why it’s important.”

One graduate and the deputy engineer for Numerical Weather Modeling for PEO Digital, Jetta Rackleff, has fully embraced the concepts she was exposed to and skills she acquired through the digital engineering program.

“It is critical, especially as engineers, that we continuously learn and develop,” she said. “This keeps the Air Force on the cutting edge. Specifically with digital transformation, it is critical to ensure we can make immediate changes to design, coordinate real-time between various stakeholders, leverage state-of-the technologies, and make decisions at the lowest level to allow for fast calibrations. It allows us to be more interconnected and innovative as engineers in the digital domain.”

Rackleff also noted she and many of her fellow graduates are now considered the digital subject matter experts for their respective organizations and are “leading the charge” to create models for their programs, branches, divisions, and directorates.

“We’ve talked about this program with the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Massachusetts governor and many others,” said Col. Taona Enriquez, Hanscom AFB installation commander. “I am proud to be a champion for this program. This is a small cohort, but it’s the first of many and we’re looking at how we can scale and improve this program.”