The National Center for Simulation (NCS) announced the newly selected members for induction into the NCS Modeling & Simulation (M&S) Hall of Fame for the 2023 class: Robert “Bob” Ferris, John D. Illgen and Khanh Dai Pham, Ph.D. These new members will be inducted on 12 October at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), bringing the total number of members to 39.
“In my opinion, the Modeling and Simulation Hall of Fame is one of the more important things we do as an organization because we are ensuring the proper recognition of the pioneers who have made – and continue to make – significant contributions in an ever-growing and expanding field,” said George Cheros, NCS CEO and president. “We’re honored to welcome these three men as our class of 2023 and excited to celebrate their accomplishments.”
Robert “Bob” Ferris is an early pioneer of virtual reality (VR) education and in the 1990s was considered by some as a “grandfather of VR.” He was the driving force behind the growth of immersive simulation training technology and responsible for the revolution in realistic and immersive de-escalation and firearms training for both police and warfighters.
Ferris established the world’s first educational use of VR for college students, simulating atomic motion at the University of Arizona. It was studied by the National Science Foundation and established the groundwork for the educational use of M&S for years to come. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Ferris refocused his company, Ferris Productions, on revolutionizing the effectiveness of simulators to help those on the front lines in the War on Terror, at which time he changed the company name to “VirTra, Inc.”
His passion for innovation and tireless devotion to overcoming technological challenges to create indispensable solutions has had profound impacts on a variety of areas including VR education, theme parks, VR headsets, police and military simulation training, and weapon simulation.
John D. Illgen is a pioneer in the M&S establishment’s defense acquisition process. A former chairman of the board of directors for the National Defense Industrial Association, he has been a passionate advocate for M&S by influencing industry leaders and changing their perceptions of M&S’ value. For example, when he worked at Northrop Grumman, he successfully convinced the CEO to incorporate M&S into all business operations and development. This later evolved into a pivotal role in his career, promoting model-based acquisition and emphasizing the importance of M&S in the forefront of considerations instead of leaving it as an afterthought.
He has expertise and leadership experience in various technical domains, including network-enabled systems. He has been instrumental in promoting best practices and technologies for M&S and fostered collaboration among the Department of Defense, industry and academia. He has also contributed to enhancing software architecture for integrating and interoperating models and simulations in distributed applications, including Live, Virtual, and Constructive environments.
Khanh Dai Pham, Ph.D., is a principal aerospace engineer in the Geospace Technologies Division at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. In this position, he serves as the Air Force’s principal scientific authority and independent researcher in space control and command autonomy, space situational awareness, assured satellite communications and resilient satellite navigation.
Pham has made significant contributions to the greater research community, as well as the Air Force, bringing systems-theoretic science, control engineering principles and game-theoretic operation research paradigms to solve the Air Force’s top engineering problems and capability priorities. The impacts of this contributions have resulted in many national awards. Pham currently holds 26 U.S. patents in the field of space sensing and control, robotics, cybersecurity, and assured satellite communications, two of which have been licensed.
The NCS Modeling and Simulation Hall of Fame was established in 2014 in partnership with Orange County Government, including the Office of the Mayor of Orange County and the OCCC. Each year, the inductees are recognized at a ceremony at the OCCC, where a permanent NCS Wall of Fame is in the OCCC’s South Concourse.