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Ohio University faculty honored with the 2023 FBI National Academy Associates Science and Innovation Award

A combined endeavor by faculty members from Ohio University's Scripps College of Communication McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies, Eric R. Williams and John Bowditch, together with Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service Faculty member John Born, has been honored with the prestigious 2023 FBI National Academy Associates Science and Innovation Award.

The team developed two impactful 30-minute cinematic virtual reality (cine-VR) experiences aimed at enhancing police officer training across the state of Ohio. The award-winning work was part of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service's Appalachian Law Enforcement Initiative (ALEI), which allowed faculty to collaborate with numerous Ohio University students and community members. Using resources from the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab in the Scripps College of Communication, which serves as an innovative and creative center for students, faculty, and staff research and project development. 

Eric R. Williams and John Born had the honor of accepting this award on behalf of the team at the FBI National Academy Associates Annual Training Conference which took place from July 29 to Aug. 1, 2023, in Denver, Colo.

John Bowditch, GRID Lab director and associate professor in ECT, shared his excitement about the award, stating, "This project showcases cross-University and industry collaboration at its best. It's a testament to what can be achieved when education and technology converge, fostering hands-on experiential learning for the betterment of society."


Winners of the 2023 FBI National Academy Associates Science and Innovation Award stand with the award in front of Schoonover
Winners of the 2023 FBI National Academy Associates Science and Innovation Award: Front row, left to right: Jordan Herron, David Malawista, John Bowditch, Adonis Durado. Back row, left to right: John Born, Lieutenant Tim Ryan, Captain Aaron Maynard, Eric R. Williams.

The project was a true collaborative effort, featuring contributions from Lieutenant Tim Ryan of the Ohio University Police Department, Commander David Malawista from the Athens Police Department, Captain Aaron Maynard from the Athens Sheriff’s Office, Tia Jameson, Director of Ohio University’s Bobcats Lead Change, Adonis Durado, Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Communication, John Born, Visiting Assistant Professor and Executive in Residence at the Scripps College of Communication and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, Eric R. Williams, Professor in ECT, and Jordan Herron, Sound Designer. 

The virtual reality training experiences are tailored for the law enforcement community in Appalachia. This initiative aims to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities, fostering enhanced community and police relations. The virtual reality experiences are particularly transformative for the region, where factors such as distance, small populations, and tight budgets often present challenges to comprehensive law enforcement training. With the introduction of these virtual modules, officers are now privy to a richer, more immersive training environment.

Born, who boasts 35 years of law enforcement and public safety experience, including as the Ohio State Highway Patrol Colonel, and Ohio's Public Safety Cabinet Director, and who serves as the founding co-chair of the Ohio Community Police Collaborative, spoke highly of the initative. “I can attest that ALEI, developed collaboratively in the heart of Appalachia by those who will first benefit from its use, will be the future model of law enforcement training." 

Ohio University Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth is beaming with pride, too. Titsworth stated, “I am thrilled that the hard work of faculty, staff, and students has received this national recognition. The work on the ALEI project and many others demonstrates that Ohio University is a leader in developing high-impact applications of AR/VR content. I am also proud of the deep connections on campus and in the community that were present throughout this project.” 

August 14, 2023
Staff reports