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a.i. solutions spot on

a.i. solutions is dedicated to empowering our employees, who consistently provide SPOT ON performance for our customers. Throughout 2020 we will be showcasing our employees and their dedication and commitment to our Core 4 Values: Customer, Team, Company, and Self. As a company, we are committed to providing a diverse work environment for all employees that is filled with opportunities for professional and personal development. Come see how our employees bring to life the innovative solutions that make Space Exploration possible.

Quinn Kupec, Lanham, MD

Quinn Kupec is an Aerospace Engineer working on the FreeFlyer Team. Quinn supports FreeFlyer customers and provides user input on the design of the software. He started with a.i. solutions as an intern in the summer of 2019 and finally transitioned to full-time in June 2020. When Quinn’s not working with the a.i. solutions team to advance FreeFlyer’s engineering, he volunteers his time to support healthcare workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How did you first become interested in the space industry?

“I attended a summer camp on rocketry when I was going into third grade. At the camp, I learned about the basic physics behind rockets and got an intro to designing and building my own (model) rockets. They also talked to us about aerospace engineering, and once I learned that I could have a career as an actual rocket scientist I was hooked. Since then, I have had a strong desire to support human spaceflight and deep space exploration, both of which I get to be involved with at a.i. solutions.”

Briefly describe your career working in the space industry.

“I interned with the FreeFlyer Team at a.i. solutions after my junior year. One of the main things I worked on as an intern was testing and making demos for the terrain modeling functionality that was added in FreeFlyer 7.5. After my internship, I came back part-time working with the Drone Systems group. Once I graduated, I came back to the FreeFlyer team and started full-time. As an intern, I was heavily involved with the rest of the team which made the transition to full-time really easy. Before I interned with a.i. solutions, I was mostly interested in structural design. When I accepted the internship with a.i. solutions, I wasn’t expecting that I would like astrodynamics and software work as much as I did. Now, I can’t even imagine going back to structural design.”

What is your favorite part about working for a.i. solutions?

“I really love the company culture at a.i. solutions. Everyone I’ve worked with has been super friendly and very helpful as I was getting started. There’s a really good sense of camaraderie, everyone is looking out for each other and there’s always someone to turn to if you need help. We also have a lot of fun, when we were still working in the office we would do team excursions, play softball, and we even did a 24-hour video game live stream for charity.”

How has a.i. solutions helped you in your career development?

“The best thing a.i. solutions has done for my career development was having me start full time in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. A few of my friends that I graduated with had their start dates delayed indefinitely since companies didn’t want them to start working remotely.

a.i. solutions was really supportive in making sure I had everything I needed to start working on June 1st even though we couldn’t be in the office. Additionally, when I was an intern, I had the chance to present at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference for some research I had done at the University of Maryland. My manager told me that since my research was related to using FreeFlyer, a.i. solutions would pay me to attend the conference so that I wouldn’t have to take time off. It was great to see that kind of support for an employee, especially an intern.”

Quinn, you do more than just FreeFlyer engineering. Can you talk about the 3D face shield initiative?

“I had seen people talking in online 3D printing groups about making face shields for healthcare workers. At first, it was mostly people in hard-hit areas like New York City, but as the virus spread, I saw more people worldwide posting about how they were now making face shields. I decided to check out the website that had been set up to coordinate the distribution of the shields and I found a large number of requests in the Washington D.C. area.

I made a trial batch of 10 shields and contacted the University of Maryland Prince George’s (UMPG) Hospital to see if they wanted them. They told me that they had an immense need for face shields and asked if I could make 40 more shields for them. After that, I modified the design that I was using to make the shields and purchased a second 3D printer so that I could increase my production rate. In the end, I was able to deliver 90 face shields in the first batch to the UMPG Hospital. Since then, I’ve produced and delivered approximately 300 face shields to various local hospitals.

I’ve received some really great support from a.i. solutions for this project. I brought up this issue during a meeting and there was a great outpouring of support and the director of the division I work in, Andrew Werner, got in contact with me about how we could use the 3D printer in the office to make more face shields. He also helped me procure more supplies so that I could keep making shields on my printers. There are also a couple more a.i. solutions employees who have been using their 3D printers to make face shields as well.”

Where are the shields being used?

“The shields we are making are being used at various hospitals around the Washington D.C. metro. I have primarily been working with the UMPG hospital since they have had some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state of Maryland. But I have distributed shields to other local hospitals as well.”

What are the next steps for this project?

“After delivering another batch of shields to the UMPG hospital, they told me their immediate needs had been met and most of the other local requests were tapering off so I had stopped production of the shields. But, now that we are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, I have started to see more requests for face shields again so I plan on making more. I’m hopeful that we won’t see as many requests this time around but I’ll plan on making as many face shields as the hospitals need.”

What do you find most challenging at a.i. solutions?

“Working on the FreeFlyer team, I get to work on a new problem almost every day. It’s nice to use different parts of my aerospace knowledge to solve these problems. Sometimes I’ll be working on a way to model maneuvers for a spacecraft and the next day I’ll be making a demo showing how to perform coverage analysis for a constellation of satellites. It’s pretty fun to start working every morning and just seeing what problems you’re going to solve that day.”

What advice do you have for prospective a.i. solutions candidates?

“Apply! (Ok, here’s a real answer) If you’re looking for an amazing company filled with people who love space then a.i. solutions is the place for you!

a.i. solutions has a great variety of positions supporting everything from deep space exploration to missile defense. There’s truly something for everyone!”

Virgil Burrer, Huntsville, AL

Virgil Burrer is a consulting systems engineer (software engineer) at  a.i. solutions who supports the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) as the Software Mission Assurance lead for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program. Virgil has been with a.i. solutions for the past five years supporting the GMD software development, testing and fielding.

How did you first become interested in the space industry?

“My space industry career really got started by accident. While attending college a software job opportunity, on the safeguard program in North Dakota presented itself, which I accepted. The safeguard complex was a cluster of military facilities near Grand Forks, North Dakota that supported the United States Army’s Safeguard anti-ballistic missile program. The complex provided launch and control for 30 spartan anti-ballistic missiles, and 70 shorter-range sprint anti-ballistic missiles. After working on this program in the mid 70s, I was hooked and thoroughly enjoyed the fast pace of aerospace technology.”

What is your favorite part about working for a.i. solutions?

“My favorite part about working for a.i. solutions is how the company allows me to do my job without interfering unless absolutely necessary. The company/management treat the employees as professionals, expect us to work accordingly and then leaves us alone to support our customer. I find a.i. solutions to be a very flexible company allowing for a good work-family balance, with the work part always challenging. a.i. solutions is family!”

How has a.i. solutions helped you in your career development?

“a.i. solutions has provided me with opportunities to work other programs and has also provided any necessary training to better support our customer or future career movements.”

What advice do you have for prospective a.i. solutions candidates?

“For 30+ years I worked for a large company, so going to a small company was a bit concerning.  As it turned out it was a great move and refreshing to work for a small company where you really feel you are part of the family. a.i. solutions is a great team to be a part of, with much diversity and several locations to choose from (MD, FL, AL, TX and CO).”

Briefly share any current or past projects that you enjoyed working on and why.

“The two aerospace programs which I have enjoyed the most would be the safeguard program in the 70s and the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program which I’m currently supporting through a.i. solutions. Both were fast paced, very challenging and very rewarding. Working with such intelligent and diverse folks on this program is just amazing. The program is always seeking the next generation technology, such as solid rocket boosters and high tech kill vehicles.”

Briefly describe your career working in the space industry.

“I began my career in the mid 1970s on the safeguard program as a data processor maintenance director (DPMD), working software changes/upgrades and fixing software bugs all of which were written in assembly language. The task was very challenging, but also very rewarding. Safeguard computer system was high tech for its time with multiple processors and water-cooled memory racks. The system included card punch machines, card readers and 10 platter disk drives. As the software mission assurance lead, I have been supporting the GMD program for the past 12 years. GMD is the largest program within the MDA and is designed to detect, intercept and destroy long-range ballistic missiles during their midcourse phase of flight. The system provides early detection and tracking during the boost and midcourse phase, as well as target discrimination, precision intercept and destruction of the target through force of collision. Our goal is to protect the United States from incoming threats. This is also a very challenging and rewarding program.”

What drew you to a.i. solutions? How has that changed since becoming an employee?

“I was working the GMD program alongside with a.i. solutions employees who always spoke highly of the company, management and employees. So, when an opportunity arose, I joined the a.i. solutions team.  As an employee of a.i. solutions for the past five years, I have no regrets leaving my previous employer where I had worked a variety of programs over 30+ years.”

Lance Ingram, Huntsville, AL

Lance Ingram is a consulting engineering manager at a.i. solutions who supports the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in Huntsville, AL. Lance has been with a.i. solutions since 2016 working in process improvement and mission assurance on programs with a broad, sweeping mission of protecting the United States.

How did you first become interested in the space industry?

“I never worked in the space industry, except for one amazing week almost 20 years ago, but that’s another story entirely. My career has been almost entirely spent in the defense industry. But I was mesmerized by the idea of space exploration from the time I was about 5 years old, and it became intensely serious one week before I turned 12 years old … on July 20, 1969 … when I watched Neil Armstrong put the first human footprint on the surface of the moon. It was feverish after that. Lots more to this story, but you’ll have to call me and maybe buy me lunch if you want to hear the rest.”

Briefly describe your career working in the space industry.

“Back to that one amazing week almost 20 years ago. At that time, I was working on the Patriot missile program in a dual role as the manufacturing engineering manager developing and maintaining the production equipment and manufacturing processes for building and testing the seeker assembly. My other role was as a program manager responsible for a budget intended to design and improve the seeker hardware and manufacturing processes to keep our costs within a contracted cost curve. In that role I had become a certified LEAN practitioner with Boeing and was continuously seeking process improvements that would drive our costs down. I received a call one day informing me that I could assist another Boeing team that was conducting an accelerated improvement workshop aimed to improve the processes being used to pack-out and load the space shuttle for cargo shipments to the International Space Station. I almost fainted! My entire life I had wanted to work on this space program! As far back as I had any memories it was a dream to be able to be part of it. I don’t know how helpful I really was that week I spent working with that team down at Kennedy Space Center; I was floating around on cloud nine the entire time. But, I do know they did achieve their intended objectives, and as a team we were successful.”

What is your favorite part about working for a.i. solutions?

“No doubt it’s the chance to work with some incredible people on a program (GMD) that has such a broad, sweeping mission to protect the citizens of our country from attack by ICBMs.

How has a.i. solutions helped you in your career development?

“They put me back into the workforce and gave me a chance to reengage in working with people for a mission that I care about deeply.”

What advice do you have for prospective a.i. solutions candidates?

“Buckle your seat belt … once you’ve come to work here, you are in for the ride of your life!!! Seriously.”

Briefly share any current or past projects that you enjoyed working on and why.

“I worked on teams that established production lines and associated manufacturing processes for about a dozen different products over the span of my career. The more recognizable ones include the HELLFIRE missile, Longbow launcher, an infrared countermeasure sensor product and the Patriot missile PAC-3 seeker. But I was fortunate to land an opportunity to help build a production line at a contractor facility in Sweden as part of a technology transfer program. In that job, I lived in Sweden and worked with a team of Swedish engineers and technicians developing a factory and depot operation for the Swedish government and to help them translate our technical documentation into the Swedish language. The most challenging part of the assignment was to adapt our U.S.–developed processes and materials to accommodate the unique environmental and safety regulations mandated by the Swedish government. For the most part I was able to use the prototype materials to illustrate to the Swedish engineers the “how to” part of building our product. But it was quite a different matter to understand the special laws and industry regulations (written in Swedish, of course) and to make informed decisions about how to adapt our product and processes without losing their performance and reliability capabilities. Through the opportunity, I learned their language, and for a couple years lived in their town and adapted to their customs, and when I wasn’t working, I fished in their streams, skied on their ski slopes and hiked in their forests. It was an incredible opportunity, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

What drew you to a.i. solutions? How has that changed since becoming an employee?

“I can’t really say that I was attracted; I was pointed to a.i. solutions. I had retired from Boeing after nearly 34 years of an incredible career. After about two years, I discovered I wasn’t very good at the retirement thing, so I decided to go back to work. One of a.i. solutions’ customers was also one of my former customers, so I asked if he would meet me for lunch. At lunch, I asked if he would consider being a professional reference for me, since I had decided to get back into the workforce. He said, “No!” and I was almost shocked for a moment before he explained that he would prefer if I would consider coming to work for him. I agreed, he pointed me to a.i. solutions, I checked them out and found them to be a great company, and I was soon an employee and back working once again! Since becoming an employee, I have continuously kept watch for opportunities to get other retiree friends of mine back to work. Nothing much has changed; I continue to be impressed by the company and its people.”

Kent Bevil, Huntsville, AL

Kent Bevil is a senior quality engineer at a.i.solutions who supports the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) as the hardware/production quality lead for two major programs in Huntsville, AL. Kent also is a co-chair for the parts, materials, and process control boards (PMPCB) for these programs. Kent has been with a.i. solutions for a little over two years.

How did you first become interested in the space industry?

“My career started out in automotive, I worked for two of the big automotive corporations for a total of 24 years. I wanted a change and decided that since Huntsville, AL, is known for the space industry and since I grew up in North Alabama and around the space programs, naturally I was drawn toward aerospace.”

Briefly share any current or past projects that you enjoyed working on and why.

“The satisfaction of knowing that I have made positive impacts and will be making positive impacts on programs that could protect America and the warfighters by overseeing the quality on the products that detect and neutralize threats.”

How has a.i. solutions helped you in your career development?

“Doing what I like to do in my career and knowing that I am making a difference in the ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) to protect and defend the United States.”

What is your favorite part about working for a.i. solutions?

“a.i. solutions allows me to use my experience and knowledge to make a difference in the products we deliver and provide support to our customers as a subject matter expert. It’s also great knowing if I have an issue/concern that a.i. solutions is willing and eager to help come to a win-win solution.”

What advice do you have for prospective a.i. solutions candidates?

“Be confident but not arrogant; be nice but not a pushover; understand the big picture, without overlooking the little details.”

Briefly describe your career working in the space industry.

“I worked for one of the big primes for about 10 years; started out as a supplier quality engineer that led to becoming the supplier quality manager over several programs. The prime won a major program from the DoD and I was offered an opportunity as the product quality manager for this program, which led me to the path of becoming the programs mission assurance manager. After several years I began to feel in a rut, my opportunities with the prime was to relocate to the west coast or Washington, D.C., and at the time I did not wish to relocate because of family. Working for a.i. solutions allowed me to stay close to home and provided exciting and fulfilling opportunities. One piece of advice I would give is to never become complacent to where you stop learning, and thinking what was good yesterday will be good enough tomorrow.”

What drew you to a.i. solutions? How has that changed since becoming an employee?

“After my career change from automotive to aerospace, I worked at a prime contractor that gave me great experience and introduction to the DoD and government ‘world’. I wanted to be part of what was being built for American securities and what new technologies were being developed. After research and talking to like-minded professionals, a.i. solutions was a clear choice as they support the space and defense agencies with a high standard of professionals and opportunities to best fit my expertise. And now over two years later, I do not regret my choice in a.i. solutions. The a.i. solutions management team has been great to work with and they are always supportive.”

Breanne Alzate, Cape Canaveral, FL

Breanne (Bre) Alzate is an industrial engineer and capture lead at
a.i. solutions who currently supports the Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) contract with NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) at Kennedy Space Center. Over the past 5 years, Bre has supported NASA LSP in their mission to provide mission assurance in launching NASA science payloads to their destination in space. She leads the Industrial Engineering Network, whose goal is to act as internal consultants to improve processes, develop efficiencies, and solve cross-functional problems throughout NASA LSP.

How did you first become interested in the space industry?

“To be honest, I never really had a passion for or even much knowledge about the space industry prior to starting my job with a.i. solutions! Most people who work in aerospace develop an interest at a young age, have family in the business, or were inspired by some sort of monumental space program event. I, on the other hand, grew up in Georgia, far removed from any space centers or aerospace corporate hubs. Since starting my job, my interest and knowledge has grown tremendously. I love to learn!”

What drew you to a.i. solutions? How has that changed since becoming an employee?

“I was unaware of a.i. solutions when I began my initial job search after interning at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. I looked for opportunities in the area, stumbled upon a posting, and applied. Would be pretty cool to work in the rocket industry, right? After my interviews, I could sense the feeling of family within the team, care from management, and an opportunity to learn a field that I didn’t know anything about. a.i. solutions is also a small business. So the fact that I would have the ability to make a difference within the organization, as opposed to feeling like just another cog in the wheel of a corporate machine, was attractive. Fast forward five years, everything that initially attracted me to the company has been the reason I continue to stay and love my job more every day.”

Briefly describe your career working in the space industry.

“My entire five years at a.i. solutions has been spent working as an industrial engineer on the ELVIS 2 & 3 contracts. I started as a team member and am now leading the team which consists of mostly NASA employees. In my career, my goals are to lead people, learn as much as I can, and make the greatest organizational impact possible. My desire to learn and advance recently allowed me to be a student in
a.i. solutions’ business development training program to help grow the company’s capabilities and workforce. I believe the combination of my day job as an industrial engineer, and the ability to expand my skill set in other business areas, is setting me up for success in my career goals.”

What advice do you have for prospective a.i. solutions candidates?

“If you don’t become a part of this team, you’re missing out! a.i. solutions is like a family and families take care of each other. Even though we are somewhat small, this company does a lot of cool stuff, touches many agencies, and has people located all over the country. If your mission is to succeed and thrive, you can do that here at a.i. solutions!”

Briefly share any current or past projects that you enjoyed working on and why.

“As an industrial engineer, my job is to make systems and processes more efficient and better than they were before. One project I am currently working on involves cutting down the cycle time on post flight data review analyses that the engineers perform on our Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs) (i.e. un-crewed rockets) after they launch. Our program’s mission is to successfully launch NASA science payloads and deliver them to the correct orbit. These NASA payloads launch on a variety of ELVs. However, these ELVs also launch commercial and DoD satellites as well. So, every time an ELV launches regardless of payload, our engineers analyze all the launch data to make sure any anomalies that occurred won’t carry over to our NASA payloads, since the rockets we use are in the same fleet. This is all carried out in a post flight data review. Currently these reviews can take months, but my team’s job is to cut that down to two weeks. Through the development of advanced data processing tools, cross-discipline training opportunities, and automation, we are working to make this happen!”

What is your favorite part about working for a.i. solutions?

“My top five things would have to be: the family environment, flexibility/work-life balance, challenging work, opportunities for career growth, and management who cares about and appreciates every individual. One other thing to note: Our company headquarters in Lanham, MD, has the coolest office space! I love the open work areas, innovation spaces, ping-pong table, and most importantly, the popcorn machine. I work on-site at a customer location, so I only get to enjoy it every once in a while!”

How has a.i. solutions helped you in your career development?

“Where do I even begin? I shared my desire to rise within the company with my fantastic management team and mentors, but they also noticed it themselves. That happened early on, and once it was known,
a.i. solutions has given me so many opportunities to advance in my career. I recently went through business development training, and upon completion, was immediately given a large capture opportunity. This has allowed me to learn a completely different skill than industrial engineering, grow my arsenal of talents, have a greater company-wide impact, and feel trusted. I have been given challenging projects outside of my operating unit so I can use my skills to assist other business areas. I can participate in activities, such as leadership training, where I can interact with all of the company’s top leaders and enhance my leadership skills. To top it off, I have career goals in which my manager strategically positions me to achieve.”

Michael Barton, Lanham, MD

Michael Barton is a sales and business development manager at a.i. solutions who oversees the sales of the company’s commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) astrodynamics products: FreeFlyer Software and Meridian Ground Systems, and the direct account manager for the military sector. Michael is involved with business development for a.i. solutions’ Mission Services operations unit, where the company builds flight dynamics systems and fly spacecraft for NASA. He also serves as a technical lead for the company’s Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS) efforts. Michael has been with the company since 2013 starting as an intern and has been full-time for the past five years.

How did you first become interested in the space industry?

“As a kid, I was definitely on the space side of the space/dinosaur divide. Even though I never saw it in person from my Memphis, TN home, I was enthralled by the Space Shuttle program and spent many hours building shuttles and other spaceships out of Legos. I’ve been pursuing a career of enabling spaceflight ever since.”

What drew you to a.i. solutions? How has that changed since becoming an employee?

“I started to focus on astrodynamics in graduate school. Here was a whole field that could combine the satisfying mathematics of orbits with my interest in computers! There are only a few companies that are truly great at astrodynamics, and the chance to work directly with actually-used-by-NASA astrodynamics software like FreeFlyer drew me to an internship with a.i. solutions. Since joining, I’ve found that FreeFlyer is as cool as expected, I’ve gotten to work on some awesome projects, and more importantly, I’ve done it all in a great team environment. Like everybody else, what I’ve learned since graduating is that who you do your work with is as important as the work itself.”

What is your favorite part about working for a.i. solutions?

“As a member of the FreeFlyer team, I get to help solve challenges for different space missions at least every week and sometimes every day, instead of being tied down to only a few missions over my career. Our team also maintains a fun, collaborative, laid-back environment while still maintaining our customer focus.”

How has a.i. solutions helped you in your career development?

“a.i. solutions has provided me with the mentorship, opportunities, and space to try various directions for my career growth. My management is not only receptive of my goals, but they also encourage me to pursue them and empower me along the way.”

What advice do you have for prospective a.i. solutions candidates?

“I think a.i. solutions is a great place to work because of two things: 1. We do wicked cool space stuff all over the country, and you get to play a part in it. 2. We have great people who are not only brilliant, but also work to continuously improve and are great teammates. If you value camaraderie and have a willingness to always innovate to build the next great space system, you’ll be a great fit at a.i. solutions.”

Briefly describe your career working in the space industry.

“I always planned to be an engineer who helped enable mission to space. What I’ve learned along the way is that we need more than just aerospace engineers to do aerospace! We need other technical folks sure (looking at you software engineers), but like any big venture, space missions rely on successful documentation, management, policy, teams, and relationships just as much as that technical stuff. I started as a technical astrodynamics engineer, but quickly found that I worked best in teams, and slowly figured out that the people part of my job is what I enjoy the most. So I morphed into a technical support engineer, then a sales engineer, then an account manager, and now spend almost all of my time managing people. I still love the astrodynamics and writing FreeFlyer code, but I get more value out of connecting and enabling people to build the right solutions, and so that’s where my career is headed. Luckily, I’ve been able to explore all of that and be mentored along the way all while staying at a.i. solutions.”

Briefly share any current or past projects that you enjoyed working on and why.

“Since joining, I’ve used our FreeFlyer software to help NASA and partner agencies solve problems like keeping the International Space Station clear of dangerous debris, sending an advanced solar weather monitor out beyond the moon to tell us when solar flares are coming, and maintaining Landsat’s continuous imaging of our planet and our climate (started in 1972!). In my current role in sales, I’m helping teams in and outside of a.i. solutions design FreeFlyer-based solutions to other problems as well as finding the right orbit for NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway, automating ground operations so you can manage a constellation of thousands of satellites by exception, connecting space situational awareness and collision avoidance models into the space insurance industry, visualizing the space picture for decision makers in military rendezvous/proximity operations, and streamlining ground systems so that we can re-use and consolidate ground systems in the future instead of building from scratch for every satellite.”