The U.S. Air Force is looking for bright students to participate in its new collaborative program called The Air Force Collaboratory. Simply put, the Air Force is opening up three unclassified projects to anyone who wants to participate in solving some of the “toughest science and technology challenges” that the Air Force faces.
Anyone can sign up by creating a profile via Facebook or email, and your customized profile page will show your activity, achievements, and more.
Signing up is quick, easy, and free
To be clear, these are actual projects that the Air Force is working on, and contributors will be working in concert with real Airmen.
The first step in jumping into The Air Force Collaboratory is creating a profile at airforce.com/collaboratory, which you can quickly and easily do either with Facebook or your name, email address, and a password.
Once you’ve signed up, watch the launch video to get an overview of the projects you can work on.
Choosing A Topic -
The Air Force Collaboratory is putting forth three topics: Search and Rescue 2.0, Mind of a Quadrotor (developing smarter ways of flying a quadrotor that requires minimal human intervention), and The Launch of GPS IIF. You can pick whichever project you like and dive in to the research and submit your own ideas, although at present Search and Rescue 2.0 and Mind of a Quadrotor are the only ones live, with The Launch of GPS IIF going live on October 1.
When you first enter The Air Force Collaboratory, you’ll see your profile. You can upload a picture of yourself if you like, and you can see that just beneath and to the right of your profile picture is where you can view and manage your favorites, track your ideas, and add or view comments. You can also track your points, rank, and approval rating.
There are three tabs below that area—Activity, Achievements, and Ranking. The Activity tab simply shows everything you’ve been doing in The Air Force Collaboratory. The Achievements tab shows your progress; the more you contribute, the more achievements you’ll receive. For example, you can attain Photographer Rank 1 by contributing an idea with a photo. The Ranking tab shows the leaderboard listing whoever has the highest rank at a given time.
When you’ve decided which project you want to work on, click the chosen one at the top of your profile page. We’re going with Search and Rescue 2.0.
Solving Topics and Earning Achievements -
After selecting Search and Rescue 2.0, you can watch a briefing video on the situation and the challenges the Air Force is looking to solve. Basically, in Search and Rescue 2.0 they’re trying to come up with safer and more effective ways to locate, stabilize, and transport people out of dangerous situations. The Air Force has conducted search and rescue operations everywhere from collapsed bridges to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to earthquake survivor rescues, but they are looking for better tools to accomplish those dangerous and important tasks.
Watch a briefing video before you dive in
After watching the briefing video, you can click the Research tab at the top of the page and read up on the subject at hand—its history, some background, the challenges to solve, and more. For example, reading up on search and rescue reveals that cutting the weight that Air Force search and rescue teams have to carry is of high importance. They often carry up to 120 pounds, so new equipment should be as light as possible.
On the Timeline tab, you can see the ideas that people have come up with related to this project and when. In Search and Rescue 2.0, “On-site Prototype Part 01” was added on July 21, 2013; if you want to explore it, simply click the image and read away. You can then directly contribute to that item.
The Collaborations tab shows you all of the ideas that have been submitted thus far, and just as you’re able to from the Timeline area, you can add to what’s already been submitted, and the user community will offer feedback; it’s like having a conversation, but over a longer period of time and across large geographical regions.
You can participate in any open Collaborations
The best ideas will undergo rapid prototyping in Air Force labs, often with 3D printing, and then they could be pushed out into the field for testing. When a topic has been sufficiently addressed, you’ll be able to view all the insights under the Findings tab.
You can get involved today by singing up for free at airforce.com/collaboratory. (Get it? “Collaboratory” is a portmanteau of “collaborate” and “laboratory”. That’s some fine wordsmithing.)