Auburn collaborating with U.S. Army Game Studio to develop aviation-training technology for FAA

February 5, 2018

Auburn University is collaborating with the U.S. Army and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop innovative aviation learning and training programs using virtual, interactive, and multimedia technology. The partnership seeks to develop gaming modules that can be implemented into the FAA’s current curriculum for air traffic controllers.

A cooperative research and development agreement enables Auburn’s Warrior Research Center, housed in the College of Education’s School of Kinesiology, to join forces with the U.S. Army Game Studio, which is part of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, or AMRDEC, at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. The project is through the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance, of which Auburn serves as a core team member.

The team is developing air traffic controller training technology using research and science-based knowledge on training adult learners and the use of gaming to improve learning and retention. The modules will demonstrate team capabilities to provide realistic, engaging, and effective training.

AMRDEC’s Army Game Studio has established unmatched capabilities in the development of virtual, interactive, and multimedia technology used for outreach, recruiting, education, and training. The studio brings together artists, soldiers, and gaming experts to create virtual environments for soldiers to train in without putting them at risk in combat. Rapid prototyping of gaming technology tools ensures that the computer-generated training environments are user-friendly and customizable to the soldiers. The studio is best known for developing the free online U.S. Army video game, “America’s Army.”

“The Army Game Studio is my go-to place for any training, animation, augmented learning, or virtual environment that I need,” said Project Investigator JoEllen Sefton, director of the Warrior Research Center and Associate Professor in Auburn’s School of Kinesiology. “I know that the talented team there can take anything we develop, or anything I can imagine, and make it real.”

Auburn’s new President, Dr. Steven Leath, was on hand for the signing of the cooperative research and development agreement at Redstone Arsenal.

“That was his first day of work as Auburn’s president,” Sefton noted. “I was happy he was on hand to see one of our many exciting research projects take flight, so to speak.”

Jim Witte, a Professor in Adult Education and a member of the research team, has thousands of flight hours, including combat service in Vietnam. He understands better than most that it all begins with safety.

“I started flying in 1957,” he said. “Over these many years I have come to regard the air traffic controller as the centerpiece of aviation safety.”

The project includes research from engineering, industrial design, psychology, business, veterinary medicine and human sciences. Studies also include Auburn’s ROTC program, MRI Research Center, Center for Disability Research and Policy Studies, and Innovation Gastrointestinal Research Center, as well as the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine on Auburn’s campus.

Besides Witte and Sefton, others involved are Dr. Danielle Wadsworth in Kinesiology, Dr. Anna Franco-Watkins in Psychology, and Dr. James Birdsong in Aviation.

Other Warrior Research Center investigations have included the effects of military vehicles on a body’s skeletal system, blood flow and muscles; consequences from prolonged helicopter seating; evaluation of neck injuries from prolonged wearing of helmets; reducing injury; and improving warfighter performance. Studies also explore the design of a universal cockpit, controllers, and pilot seats to improve mission efficacy and decrease pilot fatigue and injury.