Around Government

Robots and UAVs steal the show at a world-class exhibit of new technology in Washington.

From high-level Defense Department officials to scientists and researchers, 6,500 people from more than 30 countries gathered in Washington for Unmanned Systems North America, a convention billed as "the largest display of robotics and unmanned systems hardware in the world."

Hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the gathering featured 450 companies displaying innovative new gadgets and gizmos in more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Items on display included CHARLI, the first full-sized humanoid robot in the United States, built by Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Lab­­oratory, and the Saab Skeldar, an un­manned helicopter, which has under- gone seven years of development.

The event also featured panel discussions and presentations on real world applications of technology from industry experts.

At the opening session, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, took the stage and spoke about the importance of using unmanned technology in reducing the workload for soldiers, as well as saving their lives. "As I think about what's happening on the battlefield today," Lynch said, "I contend there are things we could do to improve the survivability of our service members. And you all know that's true."

--Caitlin Fairchild

Trading Up

Madge Bolinger Gazzola's first big break at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission came in 1976 when the newly formed agency needed someone who knew how to use an IBM System/34 computer. The machine took up nearly half an office. A clerk at the time, Gazzola volunteered to program the payroll system, and began working her way up the ladder. Now after 35 years of public service, she is retiring. Gazzola worked in the Office of Budget and Program Analysis, eventually becoming director.

She then rose to the top echelon of the entire commission in 2009 as chief operating officer. "The last two years were extremely exciting," Gazzola says. "It's fascinating to watch policy change, having a front row seat. We had to hit the ground running once [the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law] was passed."

Gazzola has been most proud of driving organizational change. As COO she launched a new agencywide technology initiative in six months. "It is my hope that my story may . . . encourage people at every level to make a difference," she says.

-- Caitlin Fairchild

Getting Personal

Can an intuitive introvert collaborate with a decisive extrovert? The Environmental Protection Agency thinks so. The agency puts a premium on unique work styles, earning it a spot in the Partnership for Public Service's rankings for best places to work in the federal government.

The Partnership's 2010 employee satisfaction survey weighs factors such as training and development, leadership and teamwork, all of which EPA has cultivated in recent years. Brian Twillman, a training officer and organization development specialist in the Office of the Administrator, has been leading the charge, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help employees identify their personality traits.

"We recognize that not everyone's the same," Twillman says. "Some organizations tend to learn that the hard way."

EPA developed a database of resources to help employees take advantage of their strengths and launched an onboarding initiative using the Myers-Briggs assessment to develop their talents. "If they can learn about themselves and how they can better contribute to us, then they'll feel more connected and we can make better use of them," Twillman says.

Also in the pipeline is a collaborative mentoring program. Two hundred employees already participate in the initiative, and EPA plans to open it to the entire workforce within the next two years.

-- Caitlin Fairchild

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