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SWEG employee gains valuable experience in Artificial Intelligence Accelerator program

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Thanks to his selection to the Air Force’s prestigious Artificial Intelligence Accelerator (AIA) program, one Hill employee is being exposed to world-leading artificial intelligence research and applications.

Braden Eichmeier is a civilian worker with the 309th Software Engineering Group assigned to the 518th Software Engineering Squadron. His squadron’s leadership loaned him out for five months so he could participate as one of 10 Air Force employees in the highly selective and immersive Phantom Fellowship, a career enhancing opportunity for high-performing air and space professionals to assess, develop and gain exposure to artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.

“It has been a fantastic experience,” Eichmeier said. “I’ve been in an environment where I’ve learned stretch and build that innovation muscle.  I have been able to do some meaningful work and have learned some new technologies. Leaving for a five-month training experience is a hard ask of my unit, but my leadership did a great job in making it happen.”

The AIA is a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of the Air Force aimed to create a sustainable pipeline for artificial intelligence technology to give the United States a competitive advantage in the defense and civilian sectors.

Those selected for the Phantom Fellowship work alongside the top AI researchers in the world, providing their subject matter expertise to various projects and generating new processes, algorithms, technologies and solutions to assist with the transition from research to operational use. The participants gain meaningful exposure to AI projects and a firm foundation in AI technology, while being exposed to common practices associated with AI research and procurement.

Eichmeier, who got his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Utah State and his master’s degree in robotics from Carnegie Melon, is in the last month of the five-month program. His final step will be to fly to Boston to give a presentation on the findings of his research project, an investigation into machine learning opportunities within the Ogden Air Logistics Complex.

“I looked at the data we keep in our maintenance records and will present several ways machine learning can find new insights in the data to help correct bad data or make us more efficient using the data we currently have,” he said.

Eichmeier said a lot of the research the fellows have focused on is finding ways to make artificial intelligence more explainable and robust. He said the applications could lead to safer self-driving vehicles, better image recognition tools, and more understandable methods to know why AI does what it does.   

One goal of the program is to ensure Airmen bring back to their local units the knowledge and training they received, with a long-term intent that the research done doesn’t just die in lab but actually makes it to the field.

“My experience in the Phantom Fellowship shows the 518th invests in its people, and I'm grateful to my leadership for making it happen,” he said. “The biggest thing I hope to bring back to my unit is the mentality of pushing innovation, pushing our capabilities and finding the next stage of being great.”