From supply chains to self-driving cars, DARPA Forward puts national security in spotlight

Angela Bosco-Lauth and Tami Bond speak during DARPA Forward

CSU faculty members Angela Bosco-Lauth and Tami Bond were among invited speakers at the DARPA Forward conference at CSU.
Photos by John Eisele

The federal agency responsible for U.S. military-focused research and development took over a corner of the Colorado State University campus this week, convening 720 people, in-person and online, for the first of six DARPA Forward conferences taking place across the country this year.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) chose CSU as its inaugural conference partner in light of CSU’s “critical role in the Mountain West’s technological momentum,” according to DARPA Director Stefanie Tompkins, who gave remarks and also moderated the Aug. 30-31 event.

Speakers covered a vast array of topics important to national security, including supply networks, secure information systems, breakthroughs in field robotics, and the Department of Defense’s interests in lunar space. The jam-packed agenda moved quickly through lightning sessions, portfolio briefs, and three panel discussions that featured a total of 12 CSU faculty: “Innovations in Predictive Analytics;” “Adapting to Environments on Other Planets and Disruptions in Earth Systems;” and “Building Workforce and Operations Resilience.”

CSU faculty speak on panel at DARPA Forward

The “Innovations in Predictive Analytics” panel featured CSU faculty members Angela Bosco-Lauth, Tami Bond, Michael Kirby and Susan VandeWoude.

CSU panelists at DARPA Forward

“Adapting to Environments on Other Planets and Disruptions in Earth Systems” featured CSU faculty members Bryan Willson, James Hurrell, Amy Charkowski and Karyn Hamilton.

CSU faculty panelists at DARPA Forward

“Building Workforce Resilience and Operations Resilience” featured CSU faculty members Lise Youngblade, Deana Davalos, Steve Simske and Craig Partridge. 

DARPA Forward, which will head next to Washington State University in mid-September, aims to expand the agency’s reach and explore new partnerships amidst the talent and innovation that reside at research universities like CSU.

“In the past, we’ve held large, traditional conferences and asked you to come to us,” Tompkins said. “Through DARPA Forward, we are coming to you.”

An oft-repeated theme by DARPA and U.S. government officials throughout the conference: We need you.

“We, the people of the United States, have it within us to bring the creativity and focus and effort that’s required to win the competition for the 21st century,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who remote-delivered a keynote address. “Help us address the challenges I described today. Or better yet, help us solve the problems we haven’t even considered yet. Think about how your expertise can help make a difference. Because it could end up making all the difference.”

Kathleen Hicks gives keynote address

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks joined the conference remotely to deliver one of two keynote addresses. The other keynote was given by Deputy Commander of U.S. Space Command John E. Shaw. DARPA Director Stefanie Tompkins, lower right, also gave remarks and moderated the event. 

DARPA Risers

As part of DARPA’s mission to seek talent in all disciplines and career stages, the conference introduced the DARPA Risers program, honoring 31 “up-and-coming standouts” in their fields from across the Front Range of Colorado and beyond. The early-career researchers were honored at a special session and included 14 from CSU: Michael Boyle, Joseph DeFranco, Ciprian Dumitrache, Kateryna Kostenkova, Scott Ledgerwood, Jacob MacWilliams, Lauren Malsick, Katie Martin, Savannah Rocha, Sarath Sreedharan, Jiefeng Sun, Xiachuan Tang, Justin Toole and Tyler Whittier.