ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. –– Scientists and engineers from research laboratories across the Department of Defense gathered at the Pentagon on May 18 to showcase their innovative technologies at the second DOD Lab Day.
The event was created as an opportunity for the science and technology communities to highlight and display the groundbreaking work developed throughout DOD. Lab Day provided a platform for researchers to showcase near and far-term research and development efforts and technologies that may someday benefit the Warfighter and perhaps provide them with "leap ahead" capabilities.
An opening ceremony kicked off the event and included remarks by acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Mary J. Miller.
Miller talked about the exceptional talent within the defense laboratory enterprise and underlined the important role DOD labs play in maintaining a technological edge over potential adversaries.
"Lab day showcases a small sample of the ground breaking and innovative work currently being done by the more than 39,000 scientists and engineers over the 63 defense laboratories, warfare centers and engineering centers," Miller said. "The defense laboratory enterprise help meet today's urgent operational needs while ensuring decisive overmatch for the force of the future. It provides foundational capabilities for the joint Warfighter across the entire spectrum of operations."
The latter portion of the ceremony was dedicated to recognition of Lab Scientists of the Quarter, the STEM Advocate of the Quarter and presentation of the Applied Research for the Advancement of S&T Priorities grant.
Three ARL researchers were recognized during the event; two for S&T excellence based on outstanding performance of their duties and one for outstanding support of STEM education and outreach.
Dr. Kang Xu, research chemist, ARL fellow and lead for ARL's Aqueous Electrochemistry team, received the DOD Lab Scientist of the 2nd Quarter, 2017 for his collaborative work with University of Maryland scientists in inventing a new class of aqueous electrolytes that have wide electrochemical stability window. These new water electrolytes can resolve the safety hazard of the current Li-ion batteries, as well as enable the flexible batteries of high energy and long life.
Xu's work has been considered as a transformational breakthrough that will likely reshape the battery industry.
Dr. Kristopher Darling, research scientist in ARL's Lightweight Specialty Metals Branch, received the DOD Lab Scientist of the 4th Quarter, 2016 for his research related to stabilized bulk nanocrystalline metals and alloys in support of basic and applied research programs.
Darling's findings will allow the defense department to replace the current exotic materials required for applications with more common, lower-costing alloys with no degradation of performance.
Dr. Rose Pesce-Rodriguez, research chemist in ARL's Energetic Materials Science Branch and ARL fellow, received the STEM Advocate of the 2nd Quarter, 2017 Award for her work through various programs, including Chemistry in the Library, U.S. Army Education Outreach Programs and ARL's Summer Intern Program/Symposium.
Pesce-Rodriguez demonstrated exemplary support for STEM education and outreach across the DOD. Her involvement in STEM education and outreach in has made a significant impact on students across Howard County, Maryland, among other school districts throughout the region.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics James MacStravic, awarded the Applied Research for the Advancement of S&T Priorities grant to the Defense Optical Channel Program, a collaborative effort between ARL, the Naval Research Laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
The $45 million award is aimed at projects oriented towards the design, development and improvement of prototypes as well as new processes which may translate promising research and solutions into solving high priority military needs.
ARL technology displays highlighted the 2017 Lab Day theme, "DOD Labs and Warfare Centers: Solving problems today, designing solutions for tomorrow."
Showcasing advancements in autonomy and protection technologies, the ARL displays included: Soldier Weapon Exoskeleton; Research and Development for Medical Simulation and Training; Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin and Micro-Autonomous Systems Technology.
One of the most popular exhibits of the event was the Autonomous Systems Manned/Unmanned Teaming. Dr. Stuart Young of ARL's Computational and Information Sciences Directorate discussed the challenges facing the technology which is focused on transitioning robots from tools to robots as teammates.
"One of the things we have to do as part of that effort is to get robots that can operate in complex environments that Soldiers and military personnel have to go into. One of the unique challenges is to be able to manipulate the environment called bi-manual manipulation. Another unique challenge is unlike industry where they work with familiar objects and within locations that they know, we have to manipulate unknown objects in the unknown world," Young said.
The DOD held its first Lab Day in 2015. The event was created as an opportunity for the Armed Forces S&T communities to highlight and display the groundbreaking work developed throughout DOD. The audience included members of Congress, military and civilian S&T leadership, STEM high-school students, members of the media and special guests.