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Modeling and Simulation Meeting at VMASC Highlights the Region's Strategy for the Important Field in Upcoming Years

John Sokolowski, director of research and interim executive director of Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), led a forum Wednesday, Dec. 16, at which he laid out a vision for the growth of modeling and simulation in the region.

An emerging economic sector in the past few decades, helped by the creation of VMASC in 1997, M&S is ready to explode in importance for the entire Hampton Roads region, Sokolowski told a roomful of representatives of industry, government, the military and academia at VMASC's Suffolk research center.

The forum was conducted to present "Hampton Roads 2020," the regional M&S strategic plan created by business and government leaders, as well as VMASC.

Research and development in multi-disciplinary M&S helps differentiate Hampton Roads from other modeling and simulation clusters such as Orlando, Fla., and Huntsville, Ala., Sokolowski said.

"Over the years, we've seen it evolve into a multidisciplinary, problem-solving toolkit in many areas," Sokolowski told the crowd while standing in front of a giant video board.

"To help you understand better what multi-disciplinary modeling and simulation is, it's not just a military thing. It's also supporting the medical and health care area, transportation. There are many, clear uses for modeling and simulation. We're even working in the social science area."

The framers of Hampton Roads 2020 created a vision statement for M&S in the region: "Hampton Roads is the international nexus for modeling, simulation and visualization, where industry, academic and government organizations access the most innovative technologies for solving complex problems and making smarter decisions."

Sokolowski told the gathering that taking M&S from traditional military applications into broader areas involves a multi-pronged approach. "It's very much a partnership between industry, academia and government. Remove one of those partners and it doesn't work nearly as well."

Fourth District Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes made a video presentation at the meeting because votes on Capitol Hill prevented him from attending. He said state and federal representatives of both parties from Virginia are committed to making strategic investments to allow the Hampton Roads M&S cluster to flourish.

Proof of that is the $2.7 million in federal stimulus funds earmarked for M&S researchers to do multi-disciplinary emergency planning, Forbes said. "Our region is planting a flag in the ground to let the world know there's no more knowledgeable, thriving hub of modeling and simulation anywhere," he said.

Dana Dickens of the Hampton Roads Partnership, one of the participants in Hampton Roads 2020, said this region is the best organized in the country in its ability to support turning modeling and simulation research into business innovation, leading to real growth.

He said one thing that helps is an education strategy that starts M&S instruction in middle school and continues it through the post-doctoral level.

"Working together, pooling our assets, will put us all in a better position," Dickens said.

ODU now offers a bachelor's degree in modeling and simulation engineering, making it the only school in the country to provide a complete M&S education, from undergrad to post-doctoral. ODU just announced the creation of a Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, which will help further promote the school as a hub for the research.

Concluding the meeting, John Dannon, a senior analyst with Lockheed Martin and chair of the VMASC industry advisory board, looked around the room at many faces he'd never seen before in the crowd of 150. He invited them to get involved in helping shape the future of M&S in Hampton Roads.

"Read through the strategic plan. I'm sure there's something you'll see that will make you say, 'That's what I can do to help.'"

The stakeholders in the M&S industry in Hampton Roads will gather again at a breakfast to be hosted by VMASC on Jan. 29. The strategic plan for M&S in the region will be discussed further, and volunteers sought to help shape the industry locally.

This article was posted on: December 17, 2009

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