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When Barjes Alotaibi retired from his second career as a chief pilot, he knew his contribution to the world was far from over. Alotaibi’s first career had been that of a mechanical engineer, and his next one would be as the founder of ARCS Aviation, a company located in Cookeville, TN developing ground-breaking eLearning modules, which specializes in training for the aviation industry. His experience in the aviation industry played a vital role in helping him choose a team of subject matter experts , who could create eLearning modules designed to elevate the level of training offered to pilots, flight attendants and flight dispatchers.
ARCS Aviation didn’t stop there – they quickly moved on to developing training for aviation support staff, such as maintenance and safety officers; and as the ARCS’ course offerings expanded, so did the technology used. With the goal of cutting training time for their students, ARCS began converting their offerings to virtual-reality and augmented-reality eLearning. This cutting-edge technology allowed them to build interactive courses where students could do such things as a tip-to-tail walkthrough of an aircraft without ever leaving the classroom. Not only did this give students more hands-on learning time, it allowed for simulations to run with complete safety.
When Alotaibi decided he wanted to try to enter the world of government contracting, he did his due diligence and attended several classes put on by The University of Tennessee Procurement Technical Assistance Center (UT PTAC), a program run by the UT Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS). Through these classes, Alotaibi saw the wisdom in leaning on another set of SMEs – the staff at PTAC. Paul Middlebrooks, PTAC program director, and Veronica Clark, procurement specialist, were the first to work with Alotaibi, helping him craft a capabilities statement that would showcase ARCS Aviation’s talents and offerings to potential contractors.
Earlier this year, UT PTAC was tasked with identifying clients whose products and services would be a good fit for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and immediately, Alotaibi and his company came to mind. Middlebrooks asked Russell Toone, a PTAC SBIR specialist who was heading up the SBIR charge, to work with ARCS. Toone identified two SBIR solicitations, one from the United States Air Force and one from the United States Navy. Working with Jim Greenwood, who has over 30 years’ experience working on SBIR programs, ARCS applied for both solicitations. During the application process, PTAC and ARCS had weekly conference calls to craft and refine the proposals. PTAC was instrumental in helping Alotaibi develop a budget, and focus the proposal on what mattered most.
“With the help we received from Russell under Paul’s leadership, we won our first SBIR Phase I and are waiting to hear the status of the other SBIR, which has already passed the first step in the evaluation process,” Alotaibi said.
The project with the U.S. Air Force is a perfect match for ARCS Aviation, as much of the training material needs to show things that cannot be seen, such as magnetic fields, eddy currents and AC currents. This type of training is something completely new for the Air Force, and they see it as a way to enhance their training and raise student’s understanding.
Alotaibi went on to remark about how thankful he was that the PTAC office was there to help guide him through both the government contracting and SBIR processes. “You’ll get as much out of working with them as you are willing to put in,” he said. “No one is going to do all the work for you. UT PTAC are the subject matter experts in government contracting, but I am the subject matter expert in my business, and it takes both of us working equally hard to be successful. I encourage anyone who wants to succeed at government contracting or SBIR proposals to work with their local PTAC.”
ARCS hopes to give back to the local community in the future with their products as well, by developing next-gen eLearning modules for the local police, schools, or hospitals at a reduced cost.