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was Schmidt’s turn at several successful test runs, and finally,

on May 18, 2014, Schmidt, the three-time Indianapolis 500

starter, drove at speeds up to 97 mph around the racetrack in a

ceremonial Indy 500 qualification lap. He was in total control of

the car.

According to Grigsby, “Afterward Sam told the press how

normal he felt when driving the car, which I didn’t fully

understand at the time. But now I understand it. We gave him

his old life back – if even for just a few minutes on the track that

day.”

Grigsby has had many Eureka! moments in his career,

something he attributes to Lycoming College for igniting his

passion for physics and how the human brain works.

He was mentored by the college’s Dr. Mort Fineman, who

challenged Grigsby to never accept the easy path. “He always

said to take the more difficult path, as that is where the greatest

lessons are learned,” recounted Grigsby.

“I liked his classes so much. They were challenging. I even

ended up becoming president of the Student Physics Society,”

Grigsby admitted, adding that Lycoming “provided me with

a really great, well-rounded education.” “Mostly, Lycoming

encouraged me to be curious, and gave me the tools to help

satisfy that curiosity.”

The lessons he learned at Lycoming hold true for students

today. “If you put in the time and effort, you can do amazing

things. Find what you love and put in the effort. Nothing is

impossible. Keep the door open to new ideas, and don’t be

afraid to dream!”

It was Lycoming’s Fineman who urged him to pursue

graduate school, and Grigsby studied biophysics and optometry

at Ohio State University, earning a doctorate and a post-doc

position researching the human visual system and how the

brain processes color and spatial and temporal information.

In a fluke of unbeknownst foreshadowing to the SAM

project, Grigsby landed at the Air Force Research Laboratory in

Dayton, Ohio, working on the “Super Cockpit,” which sought

to apply virtual reality technologies to the cockpit environment

using helmet-mounted displays.

“After working on Department of Defense programs for

most of my professional career, SAM brought us all into

the exciting world of professional IndyCar racing while at

the same time gave us the opportunity to develop unique

enabling technologies for the disabled community,” said

Grigsby.

At Ball Aerospace, Grigsby continues his work with human

interfaces in the areas of alternative controls, speech processing,

decision support, command and control, and simulation and

training.

Grigsby and the Ball team are determined that Schmidt’s

success won’t be the finish line to the SAM project, but an

inroad to more human-machine teaming technologies that

range from fully autonomous systems with no human input to

minimally autonomous systems with primarily human inputs

for empowering disabled people as well as used for commercial

and government uses.

“In a follow-on effort in support of one of our Air Force

customers, one of Sam’s IndyCar drivers wore biosensors during

a race so we could gather data about the physiological effects of

racing,” explained Grigsby. “These drivers are amazing athletes;

it takes incredible strength and stamina to drive a racecar at

200 mph under forces of up to 4.5 Gs for hours. Of course, we

want to take SAM to the next level, too. We want SAM 2.0 to go

beyond the Indy track and become a more Intelligent Control

System for various applications,” he said.

“I’ve done interesting things in my career – virtual

reality, virtual cockpit for fighter jets – I’ve supported many

government projects, but this one – to see Sam drive that car

using only his head – it was unbelievable!” Grigsby said. “Sam

Schmidt is an amazing person and he showed us every day that

life is what you make it and we are only limited by the limits we

put on ourselves.”

The SAM project is a collaborative venture between Ball, U.S.

Air Force, Arrow Electronics, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,

and Falci Adaptive Motorsports.

See Scott Grigsby in the Ball SAM Race Car project video

on YouTube.

“Find what you love and put in the effort. Nothing

is impossible. Keep the door open to new ideas,

and don’t be afraid to dream!”

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS ARTICLE WERE MADE BY BALL AEROSPACE & TECHNOLOGIES CORP.

LYCOMING COLLEGE 2014 FALL MAGAZINE

26

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