The Situation

The Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Marana, Arizona, trains maintenance workers to repair and maintain a fleet of UH-72A helicopters. Limited hardware resources made this training challenging, so the US Army decided to create a virtual maintenance trainer (VMT) that enables trainees to work on a realistic model of the aircraft. The VMT would include multiple workstations for students and instructors, providing a capability to manage a class of 12 at regular intervals.

The Charles River Analytics Solution

Scientists and software engineers at Charles River Analytics created an intelligent tutoring system as a key part of an overarching VMT solution developed by DiSTI Corporation, the prime on the effort.

“We developed intelligent tutor and procedure monitoring software for the student and instructor workstations,” said Sean Guarino, Principal Scientist at Charles River. “The software provides an advanced error tracking capability that dynamically classifies and reclassifies mistakes made by the trainees while rating their performance, providing guidance for improvement.”

To develop the system, the team built on previous work in small-business innovative research (SBIR) efforts, including a skill-tree framework that drives adaptive training in MAST, and performance tracking and analysis developed as part of an adaptive, game-based environment in MAGPIE.

Charles River modeled 66 essential UH-72 maintenance tasks in detail, capturing the individual steps that must be performed in each scenario, as well as meta-information detailing how to dismantle, repair, and reconstruct the equipment. A robust error tracking framework analyzes user performance, determines when errors occurred, and reclassifies the errors based on the actions of the trainee to provide an automated understanding of the specific mistakes made by the trainee (e.g., differentiating missed, added, incorrect, and out-of-order steps). Summary data analysis tools support feedback within the broader VMT training system, reporting on trainee performance and errors to maximize skill improvement.

The Benefit

Charles River partnered with DiSTI Corporation to build the UH-72A VMT, and successfully transitioned the system into a live training tool that is now being used by the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (WAATS) for the UH-72A Light Helicopter Repairer Course at Silverbell Army Heliport. WAATS successfully ran a full student course on the VMT in June, 2016. Testers and instructors lauded the system as more resilient and effective than previous training systems.

The VMT will enhance training for the newer Soldiers that have grown up in this technology laden environment while adhering to the Soldier competencies,” said Army 1st Sgt. James Morrison, WAATS TASS Battalion 1st Sgt.

The training site now plans to offer the course to 100 students each year, as well as using it as a reference tool for over 150 student pilots and aircraft maintainers. Charles River is in the process of incorporating our error tracking software back into MAST for use in future training efforts.