University of Vermont

Department of Computer Science

Darren L. Hitt, Christian Skalka receive DoD grant

Release Date: 04-07-2006

Author: Catherine Williams

Reprinted from Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology

Spacecraft propulsion and computer security research in Vermont became a bit more interesting this past March.

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced $1 million in grants for the University of Vermont as part of a targeted program to spark competitive research.

UVM was the only school to receive three grants from the program that doled out $11.5 million to 23 universities in 18 states.

A $505,000 grant was awarded to Darren L. Hitt, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Hitt and a team of scientists plan to develop and test microscopic thrusters to position and guide miniature satellites.

Once fully developed the birthday-cake sized satellites might travel in squadrons of 100 to monitor weather or conduct military operations, said Hitt.

"It's a great opportunity, there is no question about it," Hitt said about the grant.

The trio of grants is part of a program to expand science and research in states that traditionally receive minimal federal funding. Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are three of the 23 states eligible to participate in the program, according to the Defense Department. Since Massachusetts and Connecticut receive large federal grants, they are not eligible for additional funding from this program.

University officials did not provide the amount of the third grant, a chemistry research award for lead investigator Christopher C. Landry. The minimum award in the program is $350,000.

Christian E. Skalka, an associate professor of computer science, said he received a $358,000 grant for his work in computer security.

"Academic funding is difficult to get in computer science, and I feel very lucky," Skalka said.