Another mentor from AFIT stated, “These are great students, making it fun to work with them. I am probably going to publish papers with two of them this year.”
Though the program was delayed and shortened to six weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions, students still benefitted from their experiences and were able to contribute significantly to their mentors' research, mostly through virtual project work. They were provided access to AFRL’s D’Azzo Research Library for materials to facilitate their on-line research.
Students worked on a variety of projects that included, but were not limited to: learning new or enhancing computer programming skills in Python, Blender and Unreal Engine; researching different material analysis techniques and machines; expanding linear algebra knowledge; using MATLAB for data visualization and analysis; learning to read, interpret, and analyze scientific papers; understanding application of software programs for the design of siRNAs; obtaining experience with CAD modeling and simulations; gaining skill in robotics with robotics libraries, simulators, and code management; using various research programs to search through research papers, articles, and patents; using a software called Jet Designer to geometrically model an aircraft; and learning how to operate Tobii Eye Tracking Glasses and edit eye tracking videos.
Wright scholars were also exposed to several STEM career disciplines through virtual weekly luncheon lectures provided by scientists and engineers who are experts in their fields, virtual talks with Wright State University’s School of Engineering and Boonshoft School of Medicine, a virtual electrical engineering workshop provided by an energetic Ohio State University professor, on-line summer camp sessions provided by the University of Dayton’s School of Engineering, a virtual propulsion workshop provided by an Aerospace Systems Directorate engineer, and a virtual tour of the National Museum of the USAF.
Students enjoyed only one live event at Carillon Historical Park to learn about the Wright brothers' engineering feats and Dayton history. They wore masks and social distanced in small groups with their tour guides.
At the culmination of the program, Wright Scholars gave an outbriefing on their project work and experiences, and they also completed a program evaluation. The consensus on the virtual program this year was overwhelmingly positive with comments like, “This has been the best way I’ve found to get real-world experience in a STEM field;” “It has been a wonderful experience that has given me a strong foundation for research and the beginning of my career;” and “I liked the sense of accomplishment from the project I was able to conduct in just six weeks and the results obtained, as well as learning about the applications of my research!”
Another student commented, “I loved being able to collaborate with scientists and engineers on projects I am passionate about. Such experiences allowed me to foster lasting relationships and enhance my understanding of STEM topics. I gained exposure to cutting-edge technology and learned a lot about my future career field.”
Although retention of these stellar students in AFRL following college graduation is a key goal of the program, knowing that they will make lasting contributions in science and engineering wherever they go is a significant and worthwhile take-away of the Wright Scholar program.
For more information on the Wright Scholar program, visit http://www.wpafb.af.mil/Welcome/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/985968/wright-scholar-research-assistant-program or contact Debbie Miller at email@example.com.