APL mathematician earns Maryland Outstanding Young Engineer honor

Ryan Gardner part of team working on systems that prevent midair collisions of aircrafts

The Maryland Academy of Sciences named Ryan Gardner, a computer scientist and mathematician the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Outstanding Young Engineer during a ceremony Nov. 16 at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.

Ryan Gardner

Image caption: Ryan Gardner

The Outstanding Young Engineer award was established in 1988 to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary contributions of young Maryland engineers, building on the success of the Outstanding Young Scientist award program launched by the academy in 1959.

Gardner, who works in APL's Asymmetric Operations Sector, is a member of the laboratory team working on the Federal Aviation Administration's Airborne Collision Avoidance System X project. Set for fielding in 2018, ACAS X will warn pilots when it senses a risk of midair collision, and do so with a higher level of safety and flight-operation suitability than current technologies.

Gardner is part of a smaller group that has been developing and applying so-called "formal methods"—math-based techniques for developing and verifying software and hardware systems—to make sure the critical components of ACAS X will perform as designed. His team used one particular approach to compute the probability of events like near mid-air collisions for all possible aircraft encounters within a particular space and within models of pilot behavior, dynamics, and ACAS X system performance.

"Ryan's efforts are leading to real improvements in ACAS X, and his work will readily apply to new standards for unmanned aircraft collision avoidance as well," said Jill Newton, Gardner's supervisor in the Asymmetric Operations Sector's Enterprise Systems Group. "He's the consummate engineer, dedicated to solving complex problems and deeply motivated by the impact he's making to increase the security and safety of critical systems."

Gardner is the third APL staff member to win the Outstanding Young Engineer award, following Bobby Armiger in 2015, and Morgana Trexler in 2014. Four APL scientists have won the Outstanding Young Scientist award: Brett Denevi in 2015, Jason Benkoski in 2014, Andrew Cheng in 1984, and William Guier in 1959.