We were recently privileged to sit in with our Research & Disruption (R&D) team for a “progress report” meeting. Remember the deer from our previous post? We got to see the current status of those deer. It truly is remarkable to see what our team has done with the AI framework that exists and how far they’ve come. We won’t steal their thunder, but look for some exciting things from them later in the year. For now, we’ll just say that they have things well in hand.

While we admit we non-R&D people didn’t understand much of what was being discussed, we did get a chance to witness how the team interacts and how they view themselves. Nosika Fisher, whom we introduced last time, acts as the glue that holds everyone together. She’d tell you that her job consists of “sending lots of emails,” but don’t let that fool you. She really keeps the big picture of all the parts everyone works on together and helps to make sense of them during their regular meetings.

Then there’s Joel Throckmorton, a self-described “big nerd” who is in charge of infrastructure and provides the software development for the project. He’s the one who harnesses the AI, or more accurately, the ML (machine learning) to set everything up. “Everyone’s still feeling around in this dark world of AI. We’re still trying to figure it out,” he says.

Chris Gallagher agrees. “There’s no rule book. We’re making them up as we go.” Chris, besides spending his free time creating amazing 3-D movies, works all things 3-D for CHA. He says he “sets everything up,” which means he creates the model used for the project. In a very real sense, he acts as the artistic director. Everything from the geometry to the training environment to whatever the computers need to be trained on, it all runs through Chris first.

Once Chris has done his part, Jeremy Alessi takes over. He takes what Chris builds and puts it into the “script” to be followed. He’s the team’s coder – the engineer who writes the code. Basically, what used to have to be entered by a human becomes computer-generated thanks to Jeremy’s skill. Although, it really is much more complex than what he describes.

Brandon Russell then runs the models and tweaks them as needed during the experimentation phases. Once he has the data ready, he reports it in – you guessed it – the very type of meeting we attended.

With Chief Revenue Officer Chuck Wythe sitting in, the team discusses the results and what they’d like to do next. Chuck, the entire team agrees, is really the mastermind behind R&D. Chuck has ideas or, as he says, “makes things up” and the team tries to make them work. It’s a recipe that has created a lot of success for CHA.

They may be the self-styled “real nerds of CHA,” but they drive a lot of what we do here. Their passion for what they do translates to improved services and products for our clients. And when your clients include military contractors determined to improve training and manpower for our nation’s Armed Forces, that means these “real nerds” are pretty amazing.