VICKSBURG, Miss.— Laboratories from across the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) showcased their expertise, experiments and research as part of a celebration honoring the agency's 25th anniversary.
The Open House event was held with stops across the Vicksburg station—in the ERDC Headquarters building, the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL), Environmental Laboratory (EL), Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) and Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL).
The event allowed retired professionals from each laboratory to see how technology has developed since their tenures ended. Guests of current employees were also invited to attend.
Marcus Spade, communications officer for the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL), enjoyed showing former CHL professionals the laboratory’s upgrades.
“We were happy to showcase CHL’s capabilities through our informational signs, posters and tours of our models,” said Spade. “It was nice to bring CHL retirees back to the lab to show them how we’ve progressed through the years.”
Engineers explained the role of their work in everyday life. Megan Kreiger, research mechanical engineer for the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and program manager for the Additive Construction Program, highlighted the program and gave a glimpse into how impactful CERL is in the community.
“This program uses 3-D printing for instillations and expeditionary areas. Additive construction is being used to build homes and schools worldwide. They are also used to build welcome centers and other structures,” Krieger said. “Our program supports the basic research side all the way through reviewing the codes and standards for permanent occupiable buildings. Many companies use this technology for low-cost housing to make homes more resilient.”
Some of ERDC’s cold weather engineers displayed technology to help the military navigate through winter conditions like snow. Dr. Sora Haley, a research electrical engineer for the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), discussed how the technology benefits military personnel.
“This technology lets drivers of military vehicles know if they’re able to drive on snow or not,” said Haley. “This technology helps Soldiers understand how to navigate through snow and extremely cold areas.”
The event provided learning opportunities for visitors and other laboratory branches alike. Mark Noel, executive action officer for the Environmental Laboratory (EL), praised the Open House for allowing the different EL branches to learn more about what each component does.
“We wanted our branches to bring anything that visitors could see and touch so that people could see what we do in our laboratories,” said Noel. “The most interesting thing about this is that ERDC scientists from other EL branches learned about each other. So, we’ve used this opportunity to teach our EL scientists and engineers what goes on in other EL projects.”
ERDC’s map specialists described the value and impact their technology provides the Army. Fahmi Atwain, one of four branch chiefs for the Geospatial Research Laboratory (GRL), explained how his technology clears the path for Soldiers to navigate safely.
“Imagine Google Maps on steroids,” said Atwain. “We take lots of high-resolution data collection, take topographic pictures of terrain to ensure the military avoids obstacles as they travel to their destination. Our technology gives soldiers a line of sight and determines which path is the best for them. The same technology could be used in a civil works environment for disaster relief.”
The event didn’t only feature science and technology solutions, ERDC is also passionate about recruiting the best to join its team. Cody Goss, a senior engineering technician for the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL), spoke about the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program, which aims to attract and get students involved in STEM careers.
“This program was created to excite students about STEM,” said Goss. “The program uses the opportunity to design and build robots to motivate youth to participate. Getting students involved allows ERDC to possibly recruit these engineers and scientists from our local communities to work here in the future.”
Team 456 Siege Robotics, a robotics team for 8-12 grade students from schools in the Vicksburg area, was onsite to show attendees several of their robots built for various competitions.
Trent Ellison, who attends River City Early College, appreciates the opportunity ERDC provides to students. Participating with the team inspires him to start a career with the agency.
“I like the opportunities that come from this program,” said Ellison. “We get to visit ERDC facilities and learn how our work could apply to other laboratories. Even though we’re only working on robots, we could use our skills to work on mapping or other ERDC technology. Some of us have received internships at ERDC because of our connections. It’s been a great opportunity.”
Travis Webb, a Vicksburg Catholic School student, loves taking the information he learned from his sciences classes and applying it to actual projects at ERDC.
“This program is super hands-on and gets me involved in engineering,” said Webb. “In school, you only learn the concepts, but here, we can apply those concepts to our projects. We’re also learning soft skills like talking to judges, presenting problems and solutions and working as a team.”
Overall, laboratory leaders were happy about the event and the attention it brought to their scientists’ and engineers’ innovation. Dr. Jacquelyn Pettway, deputy director of the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL), applauded those in her lab for their dedication to excellence.
“We always love showing the excellent work of our team members,” said Pettway. “We have some of the best and brightest working here, and their goal is to do impactful work. ITL’s workforce strives to make a difference, so they love demonstrating some of their work and how it impacts our nation.”