by Raquel March
Arnold Engineering Development Complex Public Affairs
3/24/2014 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- Hypersonic
research and several young engineers are reaping the benefits of a
pilot mentoring program at Arnold Engineering Development Complex's
Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Md. The program, the
Hypersonic Center of Testing Excellence, began in fiscal 2011 and
combines two organizations that provide funding, instruction and
"In the short time we have been running this pilot program, we have seen
extraordinary gains in test technology and employee growth and we have
already seen students placed in the T&E (testing and evaluation)
enterprise -- one at Tunnel 9 and one at Naval Air Systems Command,
Patuxent River, Md.," said Dan Marren, the AEDC White Oak Site director
and HCoTE co-founder. "Hardly a week goes by that I am not reminded of
the gains from this activity."
The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, one of the funding
organizations, teamed with the University of Maryland to fund students
and research which began in fiscal 2011 and will end in fiscal 2017. The
Department of Defense's Test Resource Management Center, the second
funding organization, provides funds for testing, hardware and
instrumentation for the students to conduct research. TRMC's support
began in fiscal 2012 and will extend to fiscal 2016.
The program, the first of its kind, is geared toward preparing future
engineers in leading the hypersonic testing and evaluation field while
conducting basic and applied research testing for the U.S. Air Force,
DOD and hypersonic T&E communities.
A brief given by the University of Maryland and Tunnel 9 presented that
current T&E personnel are nearing retirement and that there is an
insufficient investment in new and young engineers.
Marren and co-founder Dr. Mark Lewis, the Science and Technology Policy
Institute director, suggest that the pilot program will be instrumental
to hypersonic research developments.
"My hope is that we are able to successfully navigate this pilot and
mine lessons learned and strategies that actually are useful in
workforce development," Marren said. "As our simple concept 'learn by
doing' progresses, it is my hope that aspects of our program are applied
to other areas of hypersonic T&E where we as a nation have a
shortfall in our hypersonic testing workforce.
"That said, today, a national study team from the Office of Science and
Technology Policy and TRMC are looking really closely at our program to
see if they can base a national plan on this pilot."
Currently there are six Tunnel 9 personnel mentoring nine graduate
students and nine undergraduate students in the program from the
University of Maryland. Students are involved in research activities
related to unsteady shocks, turbulence characterization, simulation,
modeling and validation. The students' work in diagnostics include
temperature sensitive paint and focused and background-oriented
Marren explained that the students' knowledge and expertise have grown as well as the mentors'.
"I have seen, in the last three years, great changes in how we
accomplish our tasks," Marren said. "While it started out as a program
that required a lot of high level guidance, each year mentors and
students grow, the research matures, and this program is beginning to
"One day, while touring the student lab with a distinguished visitor, I
noticed a student, a young Tunnel 9 engineer and a rotational Navy
employee in the lab working on a device. When I inquired as to what it
was, they informed me that the upcoming experiment required a certain UV
light source that did not exist on the market," he continued. "With a
mechanical designer, they conceptualized a new product, designed it and
built them. The fact that they were empowered to solve a problem on
their own and in the process came up with a device that never existed,
all without my knowledge, was telling. That day I knew our program was
doing something right."