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    Empowering Innovation: SMART Scholar and Mentor Pair Advance Department of Defense Counter-Drone Technologies and STEM Education

    Empowering Innovation: SMART Scholar and Mentor Pair Advance Department of Defense Counter-Drone Technologies and STEM Education

    Courtesy Photo | Hernandez and his mentor, Danielle Shanks, lead counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS)...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    SMART Scholarship Program

    Demetrius Hernandez, a passionate Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholar and accomplished computer scientist at U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), embodies innovation and unwavering commitment.

    Hernandez and his mentor, Danielle Shanks, lead counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) analyst, are trailblazing new heights in the C-UAS realm and were recently awarded the SMART Scholar and Mentor of the Year Award. Under Shanks’ mentorship, Hernandez automated the process for examining data for counter-drone testing, which significantly increased his team’s operational efficiency.

    Now, Hernandez is creating a machine learning-based simulation framework, which combines the strengths of machine learning and simulation techniques to create powerful tools for modeling, analyzing, and predicting complex systems, to improve testing methodologies. His innovative efforts will reduce costs and improve safety for data collectors.

    Hernandez has consistently demonstrated his ability to develop innovative and impactful solutions for the Department of Defense (DoD). While pursuing his SMART-sponsored degree, he developed software to control instrumentation, ensuring compliance with electromagnetic requirements for testing environments. An abstract he authored about the use of machine learning software to categorize software safety in DoD weapons systems, was accepted for presentation at the DoD Weapon Systems Software Summit. This summit is a premier conference in the defense software ecosystem for sharing solutions to software challenges developers encounter. Additionally, Hernandez presented his research on graph theoretic approaches for evaluating counter-drone systems at the 17th North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Operations Research and Analysis Conference in October 2023. The conference, co-hosted by Allied Command Transformation and NATO Science and Technology Organization, was held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory – the nation’s largest university affiliated research center sponsored by the DoD.

    Hernandez is also a recipient of the SMART Creative Research and Engineering Advancing Technical Equity in STEM (CREATES) Grant, in which he collaborated with New Mexico State University (NMSU), a Hispanic-serving institution, to significantly increase the WSMR team’s counter-drone testing capabilities and support national defense strategies. SMART’s CREATES Grants strengthen collaboration between the SMART Program and minority serving institutions to recruit, train, and cultivate a diverse civilian workforce.

    In addition to this work, Hernandez is committed to empowering future scientists through his community outreach. In partnership with the Defense Civilian Training Corps (DCTC) and NMSU, Hernandez leads a team of NMSU students and WSMR employees to develop a custom drone for counter-drone testing. He is also a mentor with the Army Educational Outreach Program’s (AEOP) Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science initiative where he collaborates with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command to facilitate workshops, panel discussions, and student mentoring. Additionally, Hernandez partnered with the Center for Research in Engineering and Technology Education at the University of Texas at El Paso to launch an application support initiative for the AEOP apprenticeship programs, paving the way for educational pathways in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for the next generation.

    “I try to help them as much as I can,” said Hernandez. “I think it’s beneficial and it helps me honestly. It makes me feel revitalized when I do it.”

    Shanks has cultivated an environment that encourages creativity and efficient problem-solving, allowing Hernandez to thrive. “The support that Danielle has given me has been awesome, because the only questions I’ve gotten from Danielle about anything that I’ve proposed or anything that I’ve wanted to support is how can she help?” said Hernandez. “Without her in my corner, honestly, some of these things wouldn’t have been done.”

    With Shanks’ guidance, Hernandez has seamlessly integrated into the defense sector, where his innovation, leadership, and community engagement have been consistently nurtured.


    Date Taken: 05.06.2024
    Date Posted: 05.06.2024 11:48
    Story ID: 470419

    Web Views: 139
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