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Team at Brooks AFB Wins Hammer Award for Internet-Based "Writing Tutor"

By Rudy Purificato

March 15, 1999

Scientists at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas can answer for themselves the rhetorical question posed in Trini Lopezís 1960s hit song "If I Had A Hammer." Now the baseís Air Force Research Laboratory has oneóVice President Goreís Hammer Award for reinventing government. Itís the first such award on the base.

"Iím absolutely stunned," said Dr. Kurk Steuck, the research psychologist whose 11-member team got the award in a ceremony last month. The team, which includes private sector consultants and local high school teachers, developed skills training software in math, writing, and science. This led to intranet-based versions now in use and then an Internet-based version of the writing tutor that has a promising future.

Steuckís group inaugurated the tutors in 1990 as part of a Fundamental Skills Training Project. Several Department of Labor Job Corps centers and 40 public schools nationwide use the three tutors.

What Customers Say

Customers say the tutors work. Pam Cockrell at the Ouachita Civilian Conservation Center, a Job Corps center outside Royal, AR, said three of her students used the writing tutor to improve their essay writing. They got their scores high enough to take the GED (general equivalency diploma) exams. "I really need to use the system because I know it works," she said.

Department of Labor officials, for whom Steuckís team is developing the Internet version of the writing tutor, encouraged the Brooks scientist to submit his project for award consideration. Government labor leaders consider the project so valuable that DOL has committed $1 million over two years to develop and field it.

DOL is exploring ways to use the writing tutor to train its employees in writing plain language business letters, memorandums, e-mail messages and even cover letters for resumes. Plain language is a key component of Goreís reinventing government initiative.

"One of the possible applications to the Air Force is helping officers write plain language reports, evaluations, letters, and other documents." Steuck said.

Meet the Winning Team

Steuckís award-winning team includes San Antonio-based Mei Technologyís Todd Miller, Thomas N. Meyer and Monika Kretschmer; Command Technologies Inc.ís James Johnson, Melinda Crevoisier, Chris Allen and Marcia Cromley; and MacArthur High School teachers Carolyn Peshy, DíAnne Redmon and Virginia Alford.

Steuck is on the staff of the Air Force Research Laboratory in the Human Effectiveness Directorateís Information Training Branch His teamís work is part of the Sustainable Intelligent Training System for Global Mission Applications (SIGMA) project.

More About the Hammer Award

Goreís award, administered by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, counters the notion of a government that would spend $400 on a hammer. It rewards teams of federal workers and their outside partners who put customers first, cut costs, empower employees, cut red tape, and achieve results Americans care about. Hammer Award recipients receive a $6 hammer, a ribbon and a note from the Vice President encased in an aluminum frame. More than 1200 awards have been presented since 1994.

For More Information

For more information about Hammer Awards, visit To find out about the Plain Language Initiative, visit

About the Author

Rudy Purificato is a Science & Technology Communications Specialist at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas. You may reach him at (210) 536-2846 or