Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Bob Sottilare

Bob Sottilare, Ph.D., SoarTech’s director of learning sciences, joined the organization to continue his research in adaptive instruction, to share his experience and mentor scientists who are still early in their careers.

“I always wanted to be an engineer so I could solve difficult problems and create new and exciting technologies, but because my family was in the construction business, I thought I would be a civil engineer. I veered off course a bit and I am very happy about the detour,” he said. Bob earned his doctorate from the University of Central Florida in Modeling & Simulation with a focus on intelligent systems.

“It is interesting that even now, late in my career, there are no fully automated military systems,” Bob said. “This means every military platform used to defend our country includes a soldier, airman, sailor or marine in the loop, with complex hardware and software systems, and often, that human is the most critical element of that military system.“

He added, “Given such a critical role in military systems, humans require effective and efficient training solutions to be at their best in a complex world. AI (artificial intelligence) is often used to safely reduce human workload when operating those systems. AI-based solutions also adapt and guide training so our soldiers, airman, sailors and marines can quickly reach competency and then transfer those skills efficiently into operations around the world.”

Bob’s favorite part of working at SoarTech is the healthy and energetic culture that CEO Mike van Lent and the management team have created and sustained.

“The most gratifying part of my work here has been the continuing legacy and recognition that adaptive instruction provides a high return on investment and is becoming increasingly less complex and less costly,” he said. “This means that our military will continue to benefit from ideas and investments in adaptive instruction to the point that sometime, not far from now, adaptive instruction will be the norm.”

Solving the military’s tough problems is SoarTech’s mission and Bob enjoys working on that goal each day. “Using AI to assess teams during adaptive team training events and then automatically selecting the best interventions, like feedback, continues to be a challenging optimization problem. Perhaps an even greater challenge is using AI to gradually reduce the time, cost, and skill required to create adaptive instructional systems.”

When Bob isn’t at SoarTech working on solutions, he enjoys traveling or gardening with his wife, as they both have been avid gardeners for most of their lives.

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