by Derek Hardin
Air Force Research Laboratory
1/27/2016 - DAYTON, Ohio -- "No
matter what you do, the Air Force is counting on you to make a
difference. You are all Department of Defense research scientists --
you're comic book characters ... you make the stuff that supports
These words from Air Force Research Laboratory materials engineer Dr.
Jeff Calcaterra, were one of many inspirational messages shared with
attendees during the inaugural AFRL Inspire event, held Oct. 28,
2015, at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio.
AFRL Inspire is a series of talks which seeks to energize and motivate
the current and next generation of Air Force scientists and engineers.
Inspired by the popular TED Talks series, AFRL Inspire consists of
presentations by AFRL researchers who have made important discoveries,
solved complex technical challenges, developed new Air
Force capabilities, and directly impacted the safety and mission success
of the warfighter.
Calcaterra's talk, "Good Engineers Save Lives," described AFRL's role in
aircraft mishap investigations and emphasized that everyone at AFRL
plays an important role in the Air Force mission.
The other AFRL presenters and talks included:
· Dr. Nandini Iyer, AFRL Research Audiologist - "The Party Must Go On," a
discussion of how computers are learning to differentiate and isolate
sounds in a crowd in an effort to assist the warfighter, similar to how
people can distinguish individual voices at a cocktail party.
· Dr. Moriba Jah, AFRL Aerospace Engineer - "Space Junk: The Unknown
Orbital Iceberg," an examination of the dire need to monitor and
catalogue thousands of space debris orbiting Earth in an effort to keep
communication and other vital satellites safe.
· "Rufus," Air Force Fighter Pilot and Test Pilot - "Better Than Lucky,"
a discussion of how AFRL's Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology is
helping to save the lives of pilots, like himself.
· Dr. Robert Fugate, retired AFRL Research Physicist - "Fire in the
Sky," a presentation of the 20-year evolution of Laser-guided Adaptive
Optics, a revolutionary technology which allows scientists to view the
universe with unparalleled clarity.
Noted futurist and author of novels on 21st century warfare, Dr. Pete
Singer, was the event's guest speaker. His talk, "From Fiction to
Reality - Lessons to be Learned from Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next
World War," based around his novel of the same name, presented an
exploration of what war could be like in the future.
The AFRL Inspire event series is the brainchild of Dr. Dan Berrigan,
AFRL Materials Research Engineer, and Kerianne Gross, AFRL Aerospace
Engineer. The duo had teamed up at a development workshop to discover
new and creative ways to promote an environment of autonomy, mastery,
and purpose among the AFRL workforce. They were drawn to the
storytelling framework of the TED Talks series because their modern
structure is a well-received method of training, and it would allow AFRL
scientists and engineers to share the stories behind their amazing
"We then presented our idea to Dr. Morley Stone, AFRL's chief technology
officer," said Gross. "He agreed emphatically and said, 'Go do it!'"
In the months that followed, Berrigan and Gross -- along with the AFRL
Inspire Committee, numerous multimedia contributors, and event planners
-- worked diligently to create an event that would possess a look and
feel like no other AFRL event before it.
"The Inspire team went above and beyond, creating a uniquely modern and
engaging event," Stone said. "The high quality and inspiring talks from
our presenters really demonstrated the amazing people and work that goes
on at AFRL, from the lab's beginnings to the present day. It has been
an honor to be a part of this event."
Gross described AFRL Inspire as a uniquely modern opportunity for AFRL
scientists and engineers to highlight their research and share the
stories behind it.
"It's a chance as an organization to communicate our work in a new way,
to inspire future scientists and engineers, to attract top talent to the
lab, and to tell the folks outside the fence what exactly it is that we
are doing in those beige and grey square buildings," Gross said.