MITRE Students Showcase Their Ingenuity

December 2017
MITRE Interns
Interns showcasing their project work at MITRE’s summer intern project expo

New ideas, creative approaches, and hard work were all on display at the MITRE summer intern project expo. 

The expo, set up much like a science fair, included rows of exhibit tables and eager students showing off the projects they worked on this summer. Forty-five students participated in the expo at MITRE's McLean, Virginia, campus. And another 74 exhibited their projects at the company's Bedford, Massachusetts, campus.

Full-time MITRE staff made the rounds, watched demonstrations, and asked some tough questions.

The black and white "Pocket Quadcopter" demonstrated by Peter Gunnarson, an aerospace engineering major at the University of Virginia, looked like a cool toy drone. But after a successful outdoor test flight on the McLean campus, co-creator, Nicholas Brady, a mechanical engineering major at Virginia Tech, suggested that the military could use the Pocket Quadcopter in combat operations.

To those visiting the pair's table at the expo, Gunnarson and Brady made a convincing case for why their 3D-printed drone represents "the future" of unmanned aerial vehicles, and is "essential to keeping costs down and our soldiers safe."

It's lightweight, just two pounds; fast, with a powerful thrust; portable, simple to use and navigate; and cheap—less than a $1,000 if you don't outfit it with a pair of $600 remote cameras.

"Compared to the $30,000 price tag of similar drones, ours makes sense," Gunnarson says. "And if you lose the Pocket Quadcopter or crash it," Brady adds, "it's no big deal—they can just print another one."

Projects That Make an Impact

"We didn't give these students busy work," says Dale Herdegen, who praised and encouraged students like Rajan Jani, a systems engineering student from the University of Virginia. Jani's project addressed using shared services to streamline travel functions across federal agencies. "We put them in front of sponsors. They’re coming away from this summer experience having worked in an environment that allowed them to grow and learn."

Anastasia Mingo, a MITRE software systems engineer, lingered at Avri Parker's exhibit, titled "Tool Time." Parker, a computer science and business administration major at the University of Southern California, used her laptop to walk Mingo through the colorful mission analysis model she applied to the Navy's Consolidated Afloat Network.

Mingo was impressed—and glad that she came. "The student exhibits are a good way to find out about some of the work going on across MITRE," says Mingo, who chatted at length with the cybersecurity intern about how her model relates to work she is doing at MITRE.

The future is now

Elsewhere on the floor in McLean, Kyle Jackson, a graduate student in data analytics engineering at George Mason University, told visitors he knows his project, "Vehicle-to-Vehicle Messages as an Alternative to Floating Car Data for Traffic Monitoring," sounds futuristic. But that future is here, according to Jackson. Cars are talking to each other, says Jackson, who used the data cars are sharing to monitor traffic and to do anomaly detection. 

Nijah Richie spent her summer at MITRE helping the Internal Revenue Service tackle one of its toughest challenges—tax fraud. Richie, who is studying data analytics at Virginia Tech, used a business intelligence tool, to review over 500,000 fraud cases. "There were thieves—I call them fraudsters—trying to submit false tax returns to collect refund money," says Richie, who determined that these criminals left a trail. As they filed thousands of returns, "They were using the same IP Address [Internet Protocol address]."

by B. Denise Hawkins

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