UT PTAC Client Wins Fourth Department of Defense SBIR Award

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 developing ground-breaking eLearning modules, which specializes in training for the aviation industry. Alotaibi’s experience in the aviation industry played a vital role in helping him choose a team of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), 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 be run with complete safety.

When Alotaibi decided he wanted to try and 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 (PTAC). 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 his ARCS Aviation’s talents and offerings to potential contractors.

Earlier in 2019, 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, the UT PTAC SBIR/STTR Specialist 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 Toone and PTAC’s Third-Party Consultant, Jim Greenwood – who has over 30 years’ experience working on SBIR program – 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.

A delighted Alotaibi said, “With the help we received from Russell and Paul, we won our first Air Force SBIR Phase I in July 2019, a separate Air Force SBIR Phase I in March of 2020, and continued Phase II awards for both topics in June and July of 2020."  In total ARCS has received approximately 1.6M dollars in SBIR funds.  A significant contribution to Department of Defense readiness enhancement.

The projects with the US Air Force are 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, and simulated threat mitigation scenarios.

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.  “To succeed at government contracting or SBIR proposals you need to work with their local PTAC.”

Toone stated, “ARCS is the ideal PTAC client. Alotaibi is making real contributions to our armed forces’ war-fighting readiness by developing virtual and augmented reality training platforms.”

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.  ARCS is a quality addition to the list of Tennessee technical solution providers.

Tags Economic Development Entrepreneurship Government Contracting