As research budgets shrink across the country, the Georgia Institute of Technology is making a new commitment to finding less expensive, more efficient ways to test new technologies for both commercial and defense organizations.
Building on more than 30 years of experience, the university has established the Test and Evaluation Research and Education Center (TEREC), as well as the country's only test and evaluation graduate program.
"Georgia Tech and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have been working in this area for a long time," said Dr. Sam Blankenship, director of the new center. "We have a number of things we've been doing over the years that actually established our reputation. It makes sense for a center to be here and for it to be a national resource."
The idea for the new center arose in 1991 from discussions between GTRI researchers and the chief scientist of the Air Force Operational Testing and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) in New Mexico.
Initial operations began in August 1995, with startup funding from AFOTEC and subsequent support from test and evaluation organizations in the U.S. Department of Defense and the private sector. TEREC is controlled by a board of advisers, made up of sponsor representatives, who review operations each year to ensure that the needs of the test and evaluation community are being met.
The center encompasses work done by faculty associates across Georgia Tech's 330-acre campus, as well as at other universities around the United States. A current project involves joint work with New Mexico State University.
Part of TEREC's mission is to focus on broad topics that benefit the industry as a whole. Researchers look for new ways to test everything from cars and computer software to aircraft, spacecraft and weapons systems.
"The center is intended to provide an international focal point for T&E research and education, and a catalyst for the invention of the future of our discipline," said Blankenship, who also is director of special projects for GTRI s Advanced Programs Office and a principal research scientist for the Electronics Systems Laboratory.
For a current commercial project on new Internet product development, Georgia Tech scientists are providing research, analysis and technical services in the areas of methodology, planning, human factors analysis and security.
TEREC also is leading a study for the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense on first principles or physics-based models of munitions effectiveness, with an eye toward using these models to predict test results. The project involves collaboration with several commercial and defense organizations, national laboratories and other universities.
Future projects may include looking for ways to quantify the economic value of test and evaluation in light of limited resources, an emerging topic of importance. U.S. space and defense industry leaders, in particular, want to close redundant test facilities, but need ways to determine which approach is most cost-effective.
Other areas of interest include microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMs) that can gather data without interfering with operations; intelligent systems like fuzzy logic, neural networks and artificial intelligence; and fidelity and realism in computer modeling and simulation.
Georgia Tech's graduate program in test and evaluation, which is separate from TEREC, began in 1993. Graduates earn a certificate either in conjunction with an undesignated master of science degree in systems analysis from the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, or a master of science from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Classes are taught on campus or by video and may one day be available on the Internet. Participants include those looking to earn a master's degree and the certificate, and those who already have a master's and want the certificate to show "they have gone beyond the call of duty," said Dr. Jerry Banks, a professor in the School of Industrial & Systems Engineering.
Banks oversees the graduate program with Dr. George Vachtsevanos, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Video classes are popular with students from several walks of life, including those who don't have time to pursue a degree full-time and those serving in the military.
"Typically, we have an officer posted to a remote location, with lots of time after hours, who pursues this option to its completion," Banks said.
Future goals for TEREC include setting up a visiting professorship and producing the first scholarly journal in test and evaluation research.
"Test and evaluation as it's practiced now as part of systems engineering has only been around for three or four decades," Blankenship said. "A lot of the people who founded what we do are still alive and working, but they won't be for long. What we would like to do with this visiting professor slot is have a place where people can come on sabbatical or early retirement and write a book, if they've been wanting to do that, or pursue some project that would help capture their expertise."
More information on TEREC is available on the World Wide Web
RESEARCH NEWS AND PUBLICATIONS OFFICE
430 Tenth St. N.W., Suite N-112
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia 30318
MEDIA RELATIONS CONTACTS:
John Toon (404-894-6986);
Dr. Sam Blankenship (404-894-7311);
WRITER: Amanda Crowell