Upon learning of the request, AFRL’s Chief Technology Officer Dr. Tim Bunning compiled a list of 100 research topics by working with the various AFRL technology directorates and their chief scientists.
“Specifically, the academy asked if we would be interested in enabling research internships on topics of interest to us where cadets and AFRL S&Es could jointly participate in a virtual, collaborative, multi-week research experience,” Bunning explained.
He described AFRL’s response as “outstanding,” stating that the S&Es proposed quality ideas and eagerly volunteered to mentor the students.
Once Bunning provided AFRL’s list to McClernon, individual USAFA department representatives quickly matched the topics with cadets to maximize participation.
“The impressive growth of [this program] amidst a global pandemic speaks to the innovative spirit and determination of the faculty and staff, the eagerness of cadets to participate in new experiences, and our external partners like AFRL that value cadet participation in their research,” said McClernon.
USAFA Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre described this year’s program as “a remarkable opportunity for cadets to immerse themselves in current research confronting the Air and Space Forces today.
“I can’t thank the AFRL enough for their creativity and willingness to engage our cadets on a full range of technical challenges,” she said.
The academy’s summer research program teaches problem-solving techniques through real world application of classroom principles. The experience helps students to develop key leadership skills and build lasting partnerships.
By working these research projects, the cadets gain experience in “formulating answers to complex technical questions that don’t come with canned answers from a textbook,” Bunning said.
AFRL has supported this research program in the past, although on a smaller scale. In 2019, AFRL employees mentored 26 USAFA cadets.