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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Draper Laboratory Fellow Jason Furtado Wins MIT 2008 Reintjes Award

Draper Fellow Jason Furtado received the J. Francis Reintjes Excellence in VI-A Industrial Practice Award on May 18, 2008. It was presented during the MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Annual Spring Fling and Awards Presentation, held at the MIT Museum. The award is presented to students in VI-A who have demonstrated “outstanding performance” in a VI-A work assignment and/or “exceptional quality” in a master’s of engineering thesis performed at a company affiliated with the VI-A program. 

The award is named after a past director of the MIT EECS VI-A M.Eng. Thesis Program with Industry. Winners are selected by a VI-A Awards Committee organized by the VI-A director. Furtado split this year’s $1,000 award with Doris Lin, who works at Analog Devices. 

The EECS curriculum is also known as course 6 at MIT, from which arises the name of the VI-A program. This EECS program enrolls undergraduate students who plan to pursue MIT’s master of engineering degree. It places undergraduate students at affiliated companies, where they start as interns; once they begin the master’s program, the students start work on their thesis projects at the companies. 

Furtado began work at Draper as an undergraduate in 2005 under the supervision of Autonomous Mission Control Group Leader Lauren Kessler. Furtado’s MIT advisor and Kessler nominated him for the award. Kessler describes Furtado as “highly innovative, attentive to detail, and has a strong sense of perspective.” 

Furtado’s thesis research at the Lab has focused on helping to design the Human Interactive Mission Manager (HIMM). This software will enable people to intervene in real time as mission planning is being performed autonomously by control software. Although the default state of a system to which this software is applied would be autonomous, the software would allow for human supervisory control and immediate intervention in case a problem was identified. In a letter to the VI-A director recommending Furtado for the Reintjes Award, Kessler wrote that his “software design and implementation for the Human-Interactive Mission Manager are both elegant and creative, and will be extended into the precision lunar landing technology program at NASA.” 

According to Furtado his work at Draper allowed him to apply his technical knowledge to a real-world project. Commenting on his receipt of the Reintjes Award, Furtado said he is honored that Kessler and his MIT advisor took the time to nominate him and that the award “was a nice ending to my time as a Draper Fellow.”

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