Vanderbilt wins $9.3M DARPA contract to evolve tools for military vehicle design
Vanderbilt University engineers in the Institute for Software Integrated Systems have been awarded a $9.3 million contract over two years to continue their work to mature META tools that are part of a flagship Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program.
AVM is a portfolio of programs focused on dramatically reducing the costs and lead times – by a factor of five or more – to develop new military vehicles by radically transforming the existing design and manufacturing process.
META is an open-source design tool suite used in creating, testing and validating those designs.
The META tools have been under development at Vanderbilt since late 2010 supported by an original $2.6 million contract with a $2.6 million supplement, for a total $5.2 million project led by Ted Bapty, ISIS senior research scientist and research associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Sandeep Neema, ISIS research scientist and research associate professor of electrical engineering.
Bapty and Neema are the co-principal investigators of the META tools extension and maturation project. Collaborating with the lead team from ISIS are groups from Georgia Tech University, MIT and Oregon State University. Additional collaborators are from the Stanford Research Institute, Palo Alto Research Center and Santa Anna IT Research Institute.
ISIS created META tools through model integrated computing and cyber-physical systems engineering processes and methods. These processes, methods and tools allow rapid reconfiguration and analysis of the whole vehicle design. Vehicle components can be combined, added or modified quickly, creating powerful capabilities for designers.
FANG challengers use META, VehicleFORGE
On April 22 DARPA announced the $1 million winner of its Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Mobility/Drivetrain Challenge, the first of three military vehicle design competitions with up to $4 million in prizes to build a new amphibious combat vehicle specifically for the Marine Corps.
The goal of the FANG program is to test the specially developed META design tools, model libraries and the VehicleFORGE platform, which were created to significantly compress the design-to-production time of a complex defense system.
“The first FANG Challenge has been a great experiment, and the submission of many viable, innovative designs has validated the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) design tools and provided invaluable feedback to continue their development.” said Army Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, DARPA program manager, in a DARPA release.
Wiedenman noted that several different types of teams were able to use various aspects of the tools to create viable designs in the course of the challenge. The winning team, for example, was geographically separated, but was able to use the collaboration tools to create the winning design.
Another finalist team was comprised of people who met through VehicleFORGE, the online collaboration platform also developed at Vanderbilt and used by competitors to manage and submit their designs. Still another top design was submitted by a one-person team. In many cases, a traditional design process would likely have excluded these teams from contributing their ideas.
Since the beginning of the first FANG Challenge on January 14, 2013, more than 1,000 participants within more than 200 teams used the META design tools and the VehicleFORGE online collaboration platform to design and simulate the performance of thousands of potential mobility and drivetrain subsystems.
Ground Systems, a three-person team with members in Ohio, Texas and California, submitted a final design that received the highest score when measured against the established requirements for system performance and manufacturability.