Continuing SERC Talks Series on “Celebrating Systems Engineering Digitalization”
On November 1, the SERC Talks research webinar series invited Tom Alberi, a program manager at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), where he leads a team that supports the Air Force Sentinel Weapon System Engineering Program (the largest program in the defense department), as a speaker in the “Celebrating Systems Engineering Digitalization” series.
Alberi offered valuable insights into APL’s role in advancing digital engineering (DE) and its impact on 12 mission areas. Alberi covered multiple topics, from data integration to architecture profiles, plugins for DE tools and technological innovation. APL’s focus on transforming culture and fostering DE adoption within the workforce was also highlighted. The abstract and video for this, and the complete inventory of SERC Talk videos, can be accessed via the SERC YouTube channel and the SERC Talks page.
As a University Affiliated Research Center and trusted agent for multiple Department of Defense (DoD) sponsors and various organizations, APL is pivotal in advancing DE practices within the defense sector, combining innovation and cultural transformation to address complex challenges. A few examples of DE in action across APL include: addressing challenges in air base air defense systems by modeling system combinations and conducting feasibility studies; employing DE in one-of-a-kind spacecraft production by automating engineering workflows and utilizing advanced visualization; and pioneering DE for the rapid development of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile in the Air Force.
A significant portion of Alberi’s talk explored the formalization of DE processes, focusing on the development, integration and use of models. One key example discussed was APL’s approach to data integration using Protégé, a free program from Stanford University that uses the web ontology language to drive data structure development and develop formal ontologies that can then be used for data integration, inference and reasoning.
In the realm of DE tools and capabilities, Alberi demonstrated APL’s commitment to providing authoritative sources of truth. This included the development of architecture profiles and plugins for Cameo, a critical DE tool. APL’s custom profile support for the Sentinel program was highlighted, illustrating how domain-specific information could be seamlessly integrated within architecture models. This approach aimed to engage domain experts early in the systems engineering life cycle and streamline the certification process, thereby reducing costs and schedule impacts. Additionally, APL leveraged formal ontology to ensure consistency across different architecture software tools, further promoting data integration and uniformity.
While Alberi primarily focused on technological advancements, he also acknowledged that cultural and workforce adoption is critical to the success of DE and future programs. APL actively aligns acquisition processes with DE concepts, promoting DE culture through awareness, training and external engagement. APL’s upcoming Strategic and Tactical Digital Engineering Conference encompasses both strategic and tactical systems and serves as a platform for knowledge sharing and fostering a broader DE community.
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