Center Chief Technologist Has A Vision
David Voracek has a vision for Dryden in which technology developed here collaboratively through partnerships nationwide will cut across a number of needs for NASA and the nation. More important, the technology will be ready for use when it is needed.
As the newly named Dryden Chief Technologist, Voracek has begun to chart a course to realize that vision. First, he will have to determine the range of technologies at the center and how they fit into the key goals of the agency’s Office of the Chief Technologist.
“We will develop strategies to get to a technology portfolio that we really want – including flying technology demonstrations. Fortunately, we have NASA Center Innovation Funds to help some people bring their ideas from napkins and paper to start implementing them,” Voracek said.
His vision and his task extend across Dryden.
“The Center Chief Technologist represents technology in all of the different codes across a NASA center. I am trying to encourage innovation in everything we do here, from a procurement process to a flight technology. Innovation can help us do everything better,” he added.
The agency Office of the Chief Technologist, which also was recently established, seeks to coordinate all technology efforts across the agency into a cohesive plan for elevating the readiness level of key technologies, while helping to foster partnerships to maximize resources and more rapidly move technology to products that can benefit the nation.
A chief technologist was appointed at each NASA center to represent the centers on the Office of the Chief Technologist staff. As such, Voracek will be expected to serve as the principal advisor to Dryden leaders on center-wide technology development efforts and communicate Dryden technology capabilities to the NASA Center Technology Council. The council comprises the center chief technologists and NASA Chief Technologist Robert D. Braun.
Voracek will also serve as the point of contact for the NASA Center Innovation Fund, when the appropriations process is complete, and for fund reporting and management. Proposals already have been requested, collected and are in the process of being prioritized for when funding does become available (see article p. 16).
Other duties include being the center focal point for Space Technology Research Fellowships and leading technology transfer, Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer and commercialization opportunities at Dryden.
In addition, Voracek is tasked with serving as center change agent in aiding the workforce’s capacity to innovate, document, demonstrate and communicate societal impact of center technology accomplishments and encourage partnerships and inter-center collaborations.
Voracek first worked with the Office of the Chief Technologist in April 2010, when he took a temporary assignment at NASA Headquarters to help with OCT formulation. In May 2010, he was appointed Dryden center chief technologist and was permanently appointed to the position in October.
Voracek began his Dryden career in 1987 as a research engineer in structural dynamics working on flight research programs such as F-16XL, X-29 and the F/A-18 High Angle of Attack Research Vehicle, doing ground-vibration testing and flight-flutter testing. His research included developing flight-flutter techniques, active structural damping and piezoelectric systems tests.
In 1995, Voracek was chief engineer for the F/A-18 Systems Research Aircraft. He was responsible for working with technologists from NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory on integrating experiments onto the aircraft and coordinating technical engineering staff and technical briefings.
The technology included electromechanical actuator and electrohydrostatic actuator systems, fiber optic engine sensors, the integrated structural antenna, and structural excitation systems. Voracek’s duties included serving as mission controller and flight test engineer for the flights. He accumulated 25 flight hours in the back seat of the F/A-18 aircraft as SRA chief engineer.
From 1998 to 2002, Voracek was chief engineer for the Active Aeroelastic Wing project, a joint project of the AFRL, The Boeing Company and NASA. Voracek led the formulation team that developed the research objectives and requirements for the flight project. He led the technology and engineering staff from development of requirements through the first flight and aircraft characterization phase of the project.
In addition, Voracek worked five years in the Dryden Business Development office with officials from other government agencies and private industry to formulate technology development programs. He managed the $1million Dryden Flight Research and Productivity Tools project, a competitive technology development effort.
In 2008 he was appointed deputy director for Dryden Research and Engineering, where he helped to supervise a 143-person directorate and managed the research budget.
Voracek received his aerospace engineering degree from Iowa State University, Ames, in 1986, a Master of Science in aerospace engineering from Northrop University in Los Angeles in 1991, and a Master of Science in systems architecture and engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2008.