New college course assists DOD with real-life problems

November 02, 2020

Written By: Shiloh Francis

Posted In: Elevate Magazine

Engine failure, enemy fire, weather, and more can quickly turn a routine flight into a life or death situation. When the crew is forced to eject because they cannot make a safe landing, a new challenge begins. Isolated personnel on the ground need to be recovered as quickly as possible.

It is this very problem that John Barbour, a Junior at South Dakota School of Mines, and his team are hoping to solve. He is one of ten students enrolled in the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) program at South Dakota Mines. Through this program, students are assigned to work on research problems to assist the Department of Defense in addressing needs for the United States.

This is the first year of the NSIN program at South Dakota Mines. It gives students the opportunity to not only research complex problems, but also connect and ask questions as they are working. “It’s been rewarding to be able to speak with people and find clarity as we address the problem,” explained Barbour. There are four problems being researched through the SD Mines program this semester.

The project Barbour is working on looks at geo-spatial and remote sensing data to determine the most likely place personnel will be. It takes into consideration factors such as terrain, water, and enemy territory. His group is working to make that data even more user-friendly to shorten the time from isolation to rescue.

The National Security Innovation Network is about more than a semester project. It aims to “build a network of innovators that generate new solutions to national security problems.” The partnership connects the world-class education of SD Mines with real-life problems to be solved. It also opens the door for business opportunities. VRC Metal Systems is a great example of a business spin-off that began with research on the school campus.

Creating these real-world experiences for students is what sets the NSIN program apart. Students are not simply working on a hypothesis. They discuss and are seeing firsthand how their solutions could be applied in the field. They are making an impact on more than their GPA. These students are helping our nation’s defense.