Computer Science Student Karl Simon Selected for Prestigious DoD SMART Scholarship

May 31, 2023

Karl Simon holding a drone in the flight test facility of the Science & Engineering Hall

Congratulations to Karl Simon, a junior studying Computer Science, on being awarded the Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship! The SMART scholarship is the largest education and workforce development initiative under the DoD as it provides STEM students with the tools needed to pursue higher education and begin a rewarding career with the DoD.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have received this award and for the support I have gotten from my advisors, Professors Taeyoung Lee and Murray Snyder, throughout the process. Being able to continue my education and work in an area that I find most exciting is something I am truly humbled and thankful for,” Simon said.

The SMART scholarship program covers the recipient’s full tuition and gives them an annual stipend of $30,000-$46,000, book and health allowance, summer internship, experienced mentor, and DoD employment. The full scholarship ensures students can focus on conducting complex research to further the DoD’s mission.

“I ultimately decided to apply for the scholarship because it would allow me to delve deeper into my field of study while at the same time contribute to a cause greater than myself,” Simon said. “The scholarship will enable me to complete my bachelor's and pursue graduate education without the financial burden. This way I can devote all of my focus and energy to my research and to gaining relevant experience.”

Exploring how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) interpret and interact with their environment in order to carry out complex tasks is Simon’s research passion. Coming from a computer science background, the intersection between the software and hardware side of UAVs is something he finds particularly interesting and presents exciting challenges and opportunities he would not encounter working with software systems alone. 

A newer area of research Simon hopes to also contribute to is autonomous navigation and control. Since aerial vehicles must operate in a third dimension which humans do not, there is lots of room for research and innovation. In his research at GW, Simon is advised by Professors Taeyoung Lee and Murray Snyder.

"Karl has been truly enthusiastic about autonomous aerial vehicles, and he is now much excited about the research opportunities offered by the scholarship. As an advisor, it is a great pleasure to observe a talented student finding his passion in research and getting recognized by a prestigious award. He should be proud of himself,” Lee said.

This program is a one-for-one commitment, meaning that for every year of degree funding, the scholar commits to working for a year with the DoD as a civilian employee. Therefore, not only will Simon complete his summer internship with the Flight Controls Branch at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is part of the larger Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) that supports all aspects of Naval Aviation, but he will also work there following graduation. At NAWCAD, he will have the chance to work on cutting-edge autonomous and manned flight systems that the DoD currently relies on and is developing for the future.

“Since the teams of engineers working on these systems are diverse in their backgrounds and skill sets, I also hope to gain interdisciplinary knowledge in areas beyond my own,” Simon stated.

In addition to training the future DoD civilian STEM workforce, the SMART scholarship program fosters lasting partnerships with academic institutions, STEM education ecosystems, and DoD laboratories and agencies. Professor Snyder has a fruitful, long-term relationship with NAWCAD and NAVAIR as he has been conducting research that is supported by them since 2009. The research relates to the safe operation of rotary wing aircraft, both manned and unmanned, on US Navy ships.

“I was very pleased to see Karl awarded the DoD SMART Scholarship. He is a bright and motivated young man and is very deserving of selection to this very competitive program,” Snyder stated.