Defense Department awards $5.5 million contract to SHSU

With the largest amount ever awarded to the university for providing contract services, the United States Defense Department has created a $5.5 million contract for engineering and technical services that related to the electro-mechanical systems found on Navy ships.

Considering Sam Houston State University is not a college for engineering or technical education, the Department of Defense wanted to create a partnership with SHSU for their upcoming project that will involve increasing the average time between power failures in programs in hull, mechanical and electrical distributive systems located aboard Navy vessels.

“The Navy was familiar with the work of big companies in the Washington, D.C. area like Boeing and Lockheed; but they realized that because of their size and traditional perspectives, it could diminish the probability of the program’s success,” said project manager Sabin Holland, director of Innovative Collaborative programs at Sam Houston State. “So they decided to go somewhere else.”

Along with SHSU, Florida Atlantic University, LeTourneau, Inc. of Longview and Giotto Technologies, Inc. of Houston will be working with each other to complete the project. Having the work done in several phases, the first step will be identifying currently existing technologies and determining their use with the present electro-mechanical components.

“Bits and pieces of information exist throughout the world,” Holland said. “But none of the information has been put together to develop a complete operational system.”

Finding a partnership was a difficult choice, but Holland said Houston was a logical choice because of the large number of companies within the area that specialize in energy-related technology as well as the production and maintenance of oil rigs and other special machinery.

Attending the world’s largest offshore event, the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, representatives from the Department of Defense gathered together a list of several groups who could help accomplish the goals were after. One of the groups who came to mind was TRIES, the Texas Regional Institute for Environmental Studies at Sam Houston State University.

“TRIES had worked with the Air Force in another project,” said Holland, “and the Department of Defense was familiar with us and we knew we could manage large projects. We had relationships with other partners that they Navy was interested in using.”

After the information is collected and recorded, researchers from SHSU, as well as other universities within the project will work together to design “intelligent systems” that are planned to predict how and when the systems could possibly fail. After the predictions are made, the new phase will be made to develop a program that will change the performance of the systems so in case a failure occurs, the program will continue to operate.

“Lets assume a Naval destroyer is going into battle with three systems operating on the ship,” Holland said. “If the destroyer runs into a mine and the front of the ship is blown off, and one of the systems that is needed to operate the ship is destroyed, what will it take to keep that ship operable with the other two systems, and how do you effectively distribute the destroyed system’s performance responsibilities to the other two systems?”

Along with numerous other tasks during this project including offering technical expertise, SHSU will also handle all financial and administrative details throughout the entirety of the time.

“Our faculty will have the opportunity to bring their expertise to the project,” Holland said. “From time to time, they will come in to conduct an audit of the work.”

During this project, SHSU faculty will have the opportunity to become involved by system modeling, architectural development, as well as forming control logic.

Stating that the contract will be a win-win situation for SHSU, Holland says this contract will give the faculty the chance to work on a project as well as gain exposure to how the Department of Defense Functions.

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