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About the Ohio Federal Research Network Opportunity Day Virtual Collider

The Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN) Opportunity Days are brought to you by Parallax Advanced Research in collaboration with The Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Higher Education and are a new monthly event series geared toward OFRN’s government, academic, and industry partners, as well as anyone interested in collaborating with another entity to solve a government challenge based on posted opportunities and customer discussions.

These monthly events feature networking during virtual breakout sessions, welcoming remarks, and program status updates from OFRN leadership, presentations from thought leadership and government subject matter experts (speakers and topics will change per event), and a discussion with Q&A on state and federal opportunities.

The first OFRN Opportunity Day took place on February 3, 2022, from 8:30 am to 12 pm ET. The following is the breakdown of the event agenda.

8:30 – 9 am - Networking

The event started off with a 30-minute networking session, during which event guests could network with each other and visit the three virtual networking tables featuring the Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX) program, the Ohio Federal Research Network booth, and the University of Akron I-Corps booth.

9 – 9:15 am - Welcome, OFRN Program & session goal overview Led by Karen Posey, OFRN Senior Advisor

Welcoming remarks were provided by Parallax Consultant Karen Posey who supports the strategic planning development of the Ohio Federal Research Network. Karen relayed the success metrics update and overview of the OFRN program.

Download the OFRN Overview, AFRL and NASA presentations, consolidated, here:

Watch the “Welcome! OFRN Program & Session Goal” session

9:15 - 9:30 am - AFRL Digital Engineering Transformation: What it is & why it’s important. Led by Air Force Research Laboratory Lead, Dr. Michael Gregg

Dr. Michael Gregg, director, Aerospace Systems, Air Force Research Laboratory, presented on the AFRL Digital Engineering Transformation: What it is & why it’s important.

Dr. Michael R. Gregg, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Director, Aerospace Systems Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In this capacity, he leads the Air Force science and technology programs in high-speed systems, power and control systems, rocket propulsion, turbine engines and air vehicles for advanced, next-generation space, missile and aircraft applications. The Aerospace Systems Directorate consists of a workforce of more than 1,900 military members, civilians, and contractors executing an annual budget in excess of $700 million with $4 billion in research facilities spread over 65 square miles at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; Edwards AFB, California; and Arnold Engineering Development Complex, Tennessee. Dr. Gregg was commissioned in the Air Force through the Officer Training School in 1988. Over his Air Force career, Dr. Gregg served in a variety of technical management, program management, staff and leadership positions. He had assignments that covered the entire system lifecycle. These assignments included basic research in solid state physics and lasers, missile defense advanced concept development, C-17 aircraft development and production, MILSATCOM and SBIRS space system development and production, and C-5 and C-17 aircraft sustainment and modifications. Dr. Gregg retired from the Air Force in 2013 in the rank of colonel after 24 years of active duty. He was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in 2019. Prior to his current position, Dr. Gregg was a senior associate at Dayton Aerospace, Inc. providing research, analysis, and strategic planning for aerospace industry and government customers.

Watch the “AFRL Digital Engineering Transformation What it is & why it’s important” session

9:30 – 9:45 am – NASA Quantum Communications in Space by Dr. John Lekki, Electronics Engineer, NASA Glenn Research Center

Dr. John Lekki, senior optical systems research engineer at NASA, presented an update on NASA Quantum Communications in Aerospace.

Dr. Lekki is a senior researcher at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland Ohio. In his 31-year career at NASA he has had the honor to lead very talented teams in the research and development of optical instrumentation and communications systems in multiple areas - including quantum information systems, hyperspectral remote sensing, integrated vehicle health management, and multiple flight instruments. Dr. Lekki serves as the Principal Investigator for the NASA GRC Quantum Communications research team. This team is focused on the development of capabilities to support space-based quantum communication networks that include a quantum metrology laboratory, a system testbed, a model for quantum communication system assessments as well as technology for the transmission of quantum optical signals to aircraft and satellites. Dr. Lekki has had the privilege to contribute to NASA and interagency strategic planning for quantum communications. In the support of Earth Science, he initiated a joint NASA NOAA research project to develop and utilize an airborne hyperspectral imager to remotely identify harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes. This research team successfully developed and deployed three generations of high-quality miniature hyperspectral imaging systems. These have been successfully flown on manned aircraft over 90 flights during field work from 2006 to 2017. He currently is the Principal Investigator for a project developing a hyperspectral remote sensing CubeSat focused on water quality monitoring. In support of Integrated Vehicle Health Management Dr. Lekki served as the principal investigator for the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) project. The VIPR test project is unique in that sensors and other health management technologies were tested in a turbo fan engine where the engine is operated in a range of off-nominal operations. Sensors capable of operating in extremely harsh environments and detect signs of engine malfunction were tested in this program. This series of propulsion health management experiments culminated with the first ever controlled test of the effects from the ingestion of low concentration volcanic ash in a turbo fan engine. The information learned contributes to the evaluation of flight safety during volcanic eruptions.

Watch the “NASA Quantum Communications in Space” session

9:45 – 10 am - AFRL/NASA Q&A

The AFRL/NASA Q&A portion provided guests the opportunity to ask Dr. Gregg and Dr. Lekki questions. The following video, linked below, is a relay of the questions posed and answered during that session.

Watch the “AFRL NASA Q&A” session

The following are questions and answers provided by event guests and Dr. Gregg and Dr. Lekki that were not captured during the event.

Questions and answers for/from Dr. Gregg, AFRL

Q: To what extent is the AFRL digital engineering vision related to the Air Force Software Factory, and if so, how is that going to be realized?

A: We are trying to leverage what they’re doing in the software factory, the whole agile DevSecOps paradigm. We’re trying to adapt to that and to work with that ecosystem, but that’s more of a tool to get us where we want to go to be able to do fast research, streamline transitions, and have low friction business operations. So yes, we’re following some basic tenants of agile, with software, but we’re not directly tied to that organization.

Q: What is AFRL's strategy to upskill the workforce? Do you have the skills to implement digital transformation?

A: If you look at AFRL’s strategy, Human Capital and workforce development is one of the ix key lines of effort, so we need a mix of solutions to solve the skills question. In some cases, we need to upskill our scientists and engineers to make them more digitally literate and savvy and get them exposure to a broader set of tools. But something like data curation or data management we do not have skills organic to the lab, so that’s an area we will have to grow over time. In the short term, we’re going to need to buy some skills and expertise. We need to build expertise in our ability to model and to do operations research, so we have the skills to start building out the ecosystem and get it started, but for the long-term sustainment, we’re going to have to grow and buy it over time.

Questions and answers for/from Dr. Lekki, NASA

Q: What kind of infrastructure do you need /or are you developing?

A: So, the infrastructure that you need is the technology. You need to have the technology to support quantum communications, so working towards that. We also have the model and the model’s where we start in terms of designing and understanding how a system will work. We also have a test bed that we’re developing at NASA Glenn where we’re trying to put all the different components that we might need together i.e., sources, detectors, optical switches and just all the different components that you would need. So, the test bed is another key piece of infrastructure to be able to measure things like that. Likewise, getting things into flight is key, so we’re working towards that airborne flight capability. The last thing I’d mention is we must simulate space requirements too, so we need this test bed so we can integrate and do vacuum, thermal, and vibration testing to confirm these systems can stand up to flight capabilities.

Q: You described how small businesses can create models that can be inserted into the reference systems architectures. Does AFRL have a preferred MBSE architecture that we should target?

A: So right now, we’re trying not to be overly prescriptive when defining a single MBSE architecture, so I would say no. The idea is maybe where small business can help is not so much the model itself but helping with modeling is different. If you can model what your innovation is, for example you have a novel detector, sensor or some application for a radar, and you can digitally model that, then the lab can more easily ingest that and determine the effect. That’s where we get the value out of small business is the opportunity for you to show us and get your innovations into the pipeline much quicker.

Q: How would prioritize the needs list you showed on a slide?

A: I think sources, detectors and integrated capabilities are some of the early items that we really need for the earliest experiments. I'd also put up there the ability for pointing and tracking. Having the ability to have stable optical interjects is a big need that we can utilize, as well as integrating those. Quantum memory is also a great one, but that one’s a little bit further out from where we anticipate that we could utilize it in a flight opportunity.

Q: Probably quantum physics is not compatible for communications with or within dark matter/energy. Is this a serious limitation for narrowing basic research regarding this field? (This is a critical issue for warp drive propulsion research as well.)

A: It is very important to have a robust and balanced research portfolio that covers both basic research, as well as research in the application of quantum technologies. We certainly want to broaden our understanding of quantum physics fundamentally, but we also want to focus efforts on developing technologies that lead to quantum enhanced capabilities.

Q: What quantum materials are used for quantum comm?

A: The materials that are used for quantum communications vary quite a bit. This list is certainly not exhaustive but does give some examples. For detectors, there are silicon and gallium arsenide avalanche photodiodes, as well as several superconducting nanowire detectors that utilize various materials. Optical sources of entangled photons include nonlinear optical crystals, such as beta barium borate, lithium niobate, and potassium titanyl phosphate. Quantum memories have many different approaches and have their own set of materials. For example, trapped ions utilize Ca+, Be+, Sr+, Hg+, cold atoms utilize rubidium, and solid-state vacancies use materials such as diamond and silicon. Also, any material platform for integrated photonics would be considered a material that is of interest for quantum communication.

10 – 11 am - Opportunities Overview with Matt Bush, OFRN Program Manager

Matt Bush, director of Strategic Development, Parallax Advanced Research, supporting the OFRN, provided a presentation on the various R&D opportunities available to researchers and manufacturers in Ohio.

Mr. Matt Bush has over ten years’ experience in policy, strategy, program management and audit in the Department of Defense. He has served in the executive level as a Presidential Appointee where he directly advised Under Secretary of Defense for Policy on Indo-Pacific and Special Operations matters, and later was the Principal Director for Special Operations & Combating Terrorism at the Pentagon. Mr. Bush has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

Download Matt’s slides here:


Watch the “R&D Funding Opportunities Overview” session

11 am – 12 pm - Opportunity Discussion, explore opportunities with peers

Following Matt’s presentation, the audience was provided the opportunity to network at the virtual networking tables. Networking topics centered on Advanced Manufacturing & Materials and Sensors & Electronics. The networking tables were moderated by OFRN volunteers comprised of members from the OFRN Technical Review Council. The volunteers provided attendees information on team matchmaking services provided by the APEX and OFRN programs as well as next steps in the process of proposing for R&D solicitations and funding.

Event Success Metrics

After a lot of planning and hard work, the OFRN team deemed the event a great success. The following breakdown of the results and turnout.



Total Registrations


Number of attendees who joined session(s)


Number of attendees who joined the networking tables


Total attendees




AFRL Digital Engineering Transformation: What it is & why it’s important




NASA Quantum Communications in Space


Opportunities Overview


Welcome! OFRN Program & Session Goal




No. of visits to the booths


No. of customer leads requesting follow up



The OFRN team gives a special thanks to our event planning committee and volunteers including Mark Bartman, Major General (Retired) and OFRN Advisor; Chris Mather, Senior Consultant, APEX program; Elyse Ball, University of Akron Research Foundation; Matt Apanius, Executive Director of SMART Microsystems; Dr. Joycelyn Harrison, Kent State University Associate Dean, Research and Faculty Affairs, College of Aeronautics and Engineering; Dr. Scott Petersen, Executive Director Digital Futures-Cyber Development Office of Research, University of Cincinnati; William Mahoney; Jeff Banker; Matthew Miller; and Marty Kress. We also want to thank each member of the audience who joined us; you were all amazing and very supportive of the event speakers and asked interesting questions that drove engaging questions.

Next steps - Join us in March 2022 for the next OFRN Opps Day

The feedback we have received from everyone has been very helpful, and the OFRN team is already planning the upcoming March 2022 OFRN Opps Event. Stay tuned for more OFRN event updates by subscribing to our newsletter here.