Through the inaugural Student Practical Architecting Challenge (SPARC), FirePoint Innovations Center at Wichita State University awarded nearly $40,000 to two student-based teams for their novel innovations in devising future-ready, modular and adaptable software systems to support the Department of Defense's (DOD) Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) initiative.
The first-place winners Murphy Ownbey and Greg Heiman, and second place winner Aiden McGillivray, all recent graduates from Wichita State University’s College of Engineering, will be recognized during the MOSA Industry & Government Summit & Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. More than 50 teams from colleges and universities across the country participated in the SPARC competition.
Ownbey graduated from Wichita State in 2023 with a degree in product design and manufacturing engineering. Heiman is a senior in computer engineering, and McGillivray is a junior in computer engineering.
Future-ready solutions for an agile defense
As part of the DOD's MOSA mandate, all new software either designed in-house or procured for defense applications must not only address the military's immediate need, but also be open for future needs. That means it must be easily modified, adaptable, maintainable and portable, enabling the DOD to be more agile, respond faster to new challenges and neutralize emerging threats from our adversaries.
SPARC, a FirePoint initiative, brings student's fresh, creative ideas and civilian perspective to software development to accelerate MOSA innovation and deployment. Prompted with an initial simulated software problem, the teams were challenged to build a solution that could be implemented on current, readily available software and hardware platforms to solve the initial problem but designed to be "maintainable" for unknown future requirements.
Practical plus adaptable
The solutions were evaluated across three phases of competition. In Phase I, it had to meet the requirements for immediate functionality, implementation and intuitive use. In Phase II, the teams were tasked with first defining metrics by which to evaluate solution modularity, adaptability, portability and maintainability, and then exchanged their products and documentation to measure other teams' solutions against those standards. In Phase III, the FirePoint team along with industry software experts, challenged each team with new scenarios in the ultimate test, prompting them to modify their solution in real time —add a new capability, for example—and deliver a working product.
"SPARC is about more than just building or deploying new software—it's about developing systems and protocols to evaluate and maximize the flexibility of new software solutions so that our military always has immediate access to the most cutting-edge, agile capabilities on the planet," said Paul Jonas, FirePoint technical director. "It's about 'scientifying' the art of architecture, introducing empirical evidence to evaluate and inform our development process. These students brought an impressive set of skills, new approaches and fresh perspective, and it was so exciting to watch their ideas take shape."
SPARC is part of FirePoint's mission to accelerate joint technology development, transfer and commercialization, and support STEM-based workforce development by partnering with other, universities, industry, the U.S. Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command, Aviation and Missile Center and other government organizations.
About Wichita State University
Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling almost 22,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.
Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.
The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.