Gavin Jenney, IT Lab Specialist
Upon graduating from high school in 1986, I was employed as a technician by Dynamic Controls Inc. (DCI). DCI was an R&D engineering company whose business was the development of prototype control system hardware and software for military and commercial applications. There were many opportunities to excel and learn.
One of these opportunities was the development of a digital valve driver for a prototype Fly-By-Wire (FBW) hydraulic flight control actuator. Under the Air Force contract, DCI developed an FBW actuator called the Simple Actuator. The Simple Actuator used a pair of high response two-position hydraulic valves for fluid control and potentially could reduce FBW actuator life cycle cost. The valves were controlled digitally with a pulse width signal. My challenge was the design and construction of a microcontroller-based (Motorola 68HC811) valve driver. The valve driver module was mounted on the actuator, replacing an external analog driver. My valve driver (and the Simple Actuator) was successful. The Simple Actuator met the target F-16 target performance criteria, and during endurance tests my valve driver operated the Simple Actuator valves for 9 x 108 open-close cycles.
Another opportunity was my design, programming, and delivery of PIC chip-based controllers for hydrogen-valves used on the Global Observer aircraft. Although the controllers worked well the first aircraft to be completed crashed in 2011 during the 9th test flight, resulting in the cancellation of the government-funded program.
During my employment at DCI, I was also the “IT specialist” and responsible for all DCI’s information technology hardware and software. This included setting up and maintaining the local area network, computers, internet connections, software, and web page.
While working, I took courses towards a bachelor’s degree at Sinclair College and Wright State University. Those course credits were transferred to American Sentinal University and in June 2007 I received B.S. in Computer Science. I worked for DCI until the company stopped operation at the end of 2013. The last two contracts were with the U.S. Navy and a sub-contract with Ingenium Aerospace. For the Navy we were tasked with developing a COTS solution to replace the all hydraulic system that lifts the jet blast deflector doors. We successfully developed a hybrid electric system proof of concept design. The design was slated to be supplied by the U.S. Navy to the U.K. for use on the two U.K. carriers under construction. That effort was cancelled when U.K changed its F35 purchase from the C to B model which no longer required a jet blast deflector door for carrier operation. At the same time DCI completed the 100-amp prototype controllers for the Serra Nevada Dream Chaser demonstration spacecraft flight control actuators. As development proceeded through the design phases It was revealed that Ingenium’s actuator failed to perform to the requirements, which delayed delivery. This resulted in DCI not being paid even after we delivered our controllers. The President of DCI funded the completion of the controller project with his own funds. (Eventually, DCI was paid for the delivered controllers.) DCI ceased operation at the end of 2013. Once DCI closed its doors for business, I spent two months cleaning out equipment and disassembling the lab plus offices. After that, I got an offer to support Hobart as a contractor.
The work I did for Hobart was in the area of tech support and control systems. The first task I was assigned was to debug the firmware in the control board of the FT1000 industrial washing machine. Then I was then tasked with studying the water heater system and fixing the algorithm that controls the water temperature. I was able to solve the problem when I found it was not a control problem but a thermal energy problem. I was able to test and prove to the lead engineering that my solution was correct. I then was assigned to build the test hardware that would be used in the production line of the FT1000. After that FT1000 went into production, all contractors were released, including me.
Within a week a recruiter called and asked me if I ever had a security clearance. I told him that I did when I worked for DCI. He told me of an opportunity that required technical background to design a controller that would allow the C 130 pilot to communicate with the crew without broadcasting over the radio. I went through the interview process. I was told this would be in the lab environment, but the day I began I was placed in Acquisitions for the training system. This was not what I was not hoping for. But I was asked to stay and was offered compensation that I could not refuse. So, I learned how the government builds and maintains contracts. Soon I was tasked to work on the decimation of SEP, SSR and other documents. The travel and studying new technology were the best part of this job. However, as time went on, boredom became the norm and I started looking for more challenging employment.
Within a week after deciding to change jobs, I was contacted by a recruiter. The new job presented me with the opportunity to code, although it was going to last only 14 months. The C++ I was using was heavily involved in the method of Qt. The first thing I did was to learn as much as I could about C++/Qt. The one thing that stands out is the concept of the “Core”. It was developed to simplify and eliminate the use of pointers. As I proceeded, I also had the chance to study and learn Linux Mint up close and make it my daily driver. At this point, I am coming to the end of this contract.