By Dolly Rairigh Glass
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UCF President John Hitt attends the ceremony and visits with members of STTC and the UCF ROTC leadership.

Just one year ago, University of Central Florida celebrated the grand opening of the U.S. Army and Air Force ROTC building. Among the features of this centrally-located, modern building, is a 40 X 40 foot Virtual Battle Lab, something that has captured the attention of Team Orlando and in particular, the U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL), Human Research and Engineering Directorate (HRED), Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC).

In the spring, volunteers from STTC donated a few laptops loaded with the military training game, Virtual Battlespace 2. The lab is now well on its way to becoming the premier ROTC venue in the nation, and with the growing partnership with Team Orlando, it seems that the UCF ROTC lab should grow into the best Modeling and Simulation ROTC lab in the country.

And if STTC has anything to say about that, it will happen sooner than later. Jim Nelson, Chief of Operations for ARL HRED STTC, and Doug Maxwell, ARL’s Science and Technology Manager for Virtual World Strategic Applications, recently arranged to put 40 laptops in the building, equipped with mice, keyboards and the upgraded version of Virtual Battlespace 3. Not only is the move helping the UCF ROTC program to better support their students’ education, it will also assist STTC in their research.

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Volunteers recently arranged to put 40 laptops in the building, equipped with mice, keyboards and the upgraded version of Virtual Battlespace 3

“The ROTC unit has agreed to provide cadets to serve as test subjects in some of our simulation-based training prototypes so that we can assess the effectiveness of the training when compared to more traditional means,” Maxwell said. “Having the unit so close is a valuable asset to the STTC and will allow us to provide the cadets with training, while we get to efficiently test the latest technology on a naïve population of people with military domain exposure.”

Maxwell said that when not in use for testing and evaluation, the Battle Lab will have a full suite of office and educational software students can use, or they can also use the currently deployed training software such as Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS).

“We envision the Battle Lab getting daily use for a wide range of activities,” Maxwell added. “This investment by the STTC is a win-win for everyone.”

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Congressman John Mica gets a briefing of the BattleLab set up in the UCF ROTC building.

Nelson agrees with Maxwell. “STTC is helping expose future Army and Air Force Officers to training technology tools, while at the same time, ROTC agreed to allow us to utilize cadets to participate in several studies for the HRED STTC to help develop new technologies for the Soldiers.“

Because Orlando is the epicenter for Modeling, Simulation and Training, Nelson said they would be remiss if they did not take the initiative to work with the local ROTC and provide them with some of the cutting edge training technologies.

“The new laptops the UCF ROTC received include VBS3, designed to train Soldiers on mounted and dismounted operations in a virtual environment,” Nelson said. “The ROTC plans to use the software for land navigation and squad tactics. Starting in FY 15, Cadet Command mandates that VBS3 will be in the ROTC curriculum, so we wanted to ensure they were set up for success in that effort.”

Neal Finkelstein, ARL Branch Chief, said “The Army is so proud of the State of Florida and UCF for providing both Army and Air Force cadets with the best building in the country. It is now my hope that the Central Florida M&S community and Team Orlando Services will provide the UCF ROTC with the best of breed M&S capabilities for their lab. Together, let’s help the UCF ROTC become the best prepared cadets in the country by using and learning with our technology.”