Elite research internship program finishes a ‘distant win’ in the summer of 2020

Wright State University, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), annually hosts the Autonomy Technology Research Center (ATRC) Summer Internship Program.

This year the more than 90 interns and affiliates, along with more than 30 AFRL mentors and advisers were virtually connected through an array of collaborative tools and shared access to challenging data collections and high-performance computing assets.

ATRC attracts student researchers from more than 40 universities every summer to create advanced solutions for complex sensing and autonomous technologies.

“The ATRC consists of a large pool of talented students that are interested in DoD research,” said Theresa Scarnati, a research mathematician with the AFRL Sensors Directorate and former ATRC intern. “They get the opportunity to learn about Air Force-relevant problems and grow into potential future Air Force employees. In addition, many of the projects that the students work on are often seedlings for future, larger AFRL efforts.”

Ed Zelnio, an AFRL Sensors Directorate researcher, directs the ATR Center to support cutting-edge mentor-driven research addressing defense challenges for the nation and encouraging the brightest STEM students in their work while exposing them to the benefits and opportunities of a career with the Department of Defense.

“The program has proven to be key in preparing and recruiting new junior force members from the best students in the country,” said Fred Garber, professor of electrical engineering at Wright State and an ATRC Summer Internship Program coordinator. “The professional and personal connections formed between interns, mentors and AFRL leaders will impact future leadership for a generation.”

In its 12-year history, the program has helped train hundreds of the nation’s brightest researchers and has seen scores of its alumni placed in the Defense Department and supporting institutions. Ten of the more than 30 AFRL research mentors in 2020 had been ATRC interns as part of their educational experience.

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