On Friday, the fifth installment of the Waterfront Athena Project stormed Societe Brewing Company in San Diego with a flurry of ideas born on the deckplates.
Eleven presenters from four different organizations in the San Diego area pitched their innovative concepts to an eager crowd of creative thinkers in an ongoing effort to make the Navy better. For more about how The Athena Project works, check this out.
As we’ve grown, so has the support and encouragement from commands across the San Diego waterfront, as well as from industry and academia. This time, we had more than a dozen diverse commands represented and several leaders in various fields swung by to showcase their newest technologies including holographic images, augmented reality and the en vogue Oculus Rift. It’s always inspiring to see the bridges that continue to strengthen across the fleet and beyond, and it made for an amazing event.
We kicked off with some of our new friends from Zebra Imaging and long-time Athenians from the USC Institute of Creative Technologies showing off their latest designs. Beyond that, the crowd got to see a prototype of CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel’s maintenance tablet idea from Waterfront Athena Four showcased by Lockheed Martin, demonstrating in spades that the ideas that come out of The Athena Project just don’t stop moving.
After that, it was time to get down to the ideas. Here’s how it all went down:
Waterfront Athena Five’s Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage: EM2(SW) Susan Pavao, USS BENFOLD
Proving that the best innovations are sometimes the simplest solutions, EM2 Pavao pitched an idea that begged the question: Why hasn’t this been around for 20 years? As a shipboard electrician, she found herself frustrated by a process that should be very simple: Changing small light bulbs. With the many layers of electrical safety onboard, this process is incredibly complicated, requiring either tagging out equipment, or working on energized equipment and donning protective gear that limits the electrician’s ability to complete this simple task. Well, it turns out that a government-issue pen hold the key. The shape and design of the pen, when disassembled fits perfectly around the bulb and allows an electrician to change out the bulb, albeit wearing oversized gloves, quite easily.
Petty Officer Pavao’s innovation is a tool, with the dimensions of the disassembled pen, made of insulated material that would allow electricians to simply and effectively change out bulbs. She even suggested that such a tool could be easily 3-D printed onboard ships, enabling Sailors to do their work more efficiently and effectively.
As USC’s Todd Richmond pointed out: “Who knew a government pen could be used for something other than paperwork.”
Runner Up: Shipboard Energy Competitions – FCC(SW) Christopher Roberts, USS BENFOLD
A steadfast disciple of energy conservation, Chief Roberts pitched a concept that would measure the electrical usage of every ship on the waterfront and display the results not only on the quarterdecks of each ship, but also to the entire base. His concept is a simple solution that would gameify energy usage, and drive units to limit energy consumption to the essentials while inport, saving the Navy thousands of dollars a day.
Third Place: Real-Time Maintenance – LTJG Isaac Wang, USS BENFOLD
A frequent flier at Athena events, and pitching in the often-unfortunate final spot, LTJG Wang proposed QR-coding the equipment onboard ships and utilizing image recognition to ensure that the maintenance requirements card for the equipment was always the right one. His proposal would eliminate out-of-date maintenance cards and ensure that Sailors always had the right procedures for their gear. All data files would be stored on a server and sent out as regular software updates, similar to the way cell phone apps get updated, and provide a constant validation of shipboard equipment.
Solar Roadways – SN John Fellows, ACU-1
A concept that stretches beyond just making the Navy better, SN Fellows proposed that on naval installations and beyond, the use of roads made of solar panels would provide an electricity source, prevent snow and ice buildup through heating elements, and alert drivers to obstructions in the road through LED lighting. Solar Roadways have already passed DOT load, traction and impact tests and are made of recycled materials. By his calculations, with the millions of square feet of roads on the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, the base could produce millions of kilowatt hours of electricity every year.
Integrated Accountability System – STGC(SW/IUSS) Scott Christ & CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel, USS BENFOLD
Imagine a system where all the meetings requiring attendance and all transactions to check out safety equipment, tools and hazardous materials required to conduct maintenance could all be tracked using scanners and ID cards to increase accountability. Well, that’s what Chief Christ and CTT2 Nothnagel pitched as a means to keep track of the myriad requirements for every Sailor in an organization. A scanner and computer would be placed in key locations to allow Sailors to scan their IDs and check their customized schedules for commitments. A scanner could also be placed on entry points to the ship, scanning Sailors on the way out to ensure that all rented gear had been turned in prior to departure.
Internships for Sailors – CDR Michele Day, USS BENFOLD
BENFOLD’s Captain became the highest-ranking Athena presenter ever with her idea for internships to provide opportunities for mastery within the Navy’s officer and enlisted ranks. Her premise would create experience-based learning reinforced by informal training and real-world experience. With shipboard on-the-job training providing mastery limited to the corporate knowledge onboard and many “C” and “A” schools transitioning to computer-based training, Sailors could gain invaluable knowledge and experience by interning with a corporation or organization related to their specialty to enhance their specific skill set. To apply for the program, Sailors would need to have earned their warfare qualification pin and spent at least one year onboard, and agree to a nominal commitment of service to pay back the Navy for the time spent away from the fleet. Opportunities could range from plumbing internships with local companies to management internships with industry leaders, and if the Sailor chose to leave service after completion of the payback tour, the first “right of hiring” would go to the company they interned with.
Anti-Torpedo Countermeasure – STG3 Michael Zujkowski, USS BENFOLD
For surface sailors, there are few scenarios more terrifying than a torpedo attack, and surface ship defenses against this type of attack are limited. With this problem statement, STG3 Zujkowski proposed a torpedo-tube-launched countermeasure that would be propelled to a pre-set depth and deploy an underwater net with propulsion at the corners to “catch” an incoming threat torpedo. His pitch suggested the net could be made of materials that would effectively stop a variety of different homing devices on threat torpedoes.
Fleet Tactical Talk to Text – LTJG Rob McClenning, USS BENFOLD
One of the circuits that surface ships use to communicate tactical maneuvers is an unencrypted net called Fleet Tactical wherein commands are passed between units as coded messages, leaving shipboard watchstanders to decode the message and execute the signal. Many allied countries use these code books, which have been in use for many years. LTJG McClenning proposed a computerized system with direct audio input from the circuit that would use voice recognition to automatically decode the message and also serve as a log of the messages received. Further, watchstanders could type proposed messages in plain text and have the computer code the message automatically for transmittal.
Motorcycle Buyback Program – FC2(SW) Zachary Quirk & FC3(SW) Adam Roter, USS RUSSELL
Motorcycle safety has been a concern in the military for a long time, and with rising fatality rates from motorcycle collisions, FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter’s proposed program is more relevant than ever. The two RUSSELL Sailors pitched a concept wherein the Navy would buy back used motorcycles from servicemembers to encourage alternate modes of transportation. In their view, the Navy spending $5-8K to purchase a Sailor’s motorcycle would be far less than spending $400K on a life insurance policy and even worse, having another Sailor senselessly die from a serious collision. In the question and answer session, the two Sailors acknowledge that there would have to be controls on the program that would prevent Sailors from purchasing motorcycles for low cost just to sell back to the government, but said that they felt it was important to start the conversation to improve the well being of the Navy’s most important resource: Its people.
No More Waiting – ENS Claire Calkins & ENS Nick Mann, USS BENFOLD
Have you ever wasted time waiting around to collect required approval from someone above you in the Chain of Command? With ENS Calkins and ENS Mann’s idea to adapt technology more likely to be found in Outback Steakhouse or Great Clips, that would be a thing of the past. The pair proposed a system consisting of a check-in local intranet site and an armada of buzzing devices that would enable Sailors to put their names in a queue to see “the boss” and be buzzed when it was their turn. Instead of waiting outside of an office, the Sailor could then turn to whatever task needed to be completed in the interim and improve their productivity. Their idea could run off existing networks within ships that enable the use of handheld radios.
UAV Integration – ENS Paul Paquariello, USS SAN DIEGO
Representing the USS SAN DIEGO and the Basic Division Officer Course, ENS Paquariello presented an idea that would use hardened, ship-launched unmanned aerial vehicles to extend the range of a ship’s surface search radars to more accurately and effectively build a recognized maritime picture. In his proposal, the UAVs would have radar repeaters onboard which would extend the range of a surface search radar over the horizon.
With all the great ideas that came from this event, many of which have already found connections amongst the Sailors and engineers in attendance, it’s encouraging to think that this is merely the tip of the iceberg for the creativity resident in the Fleet.
While the West Coast iteration of The Athena Project continues to march along, the East Coast is getting involved in the action! The first-ever Athena Project East will be coming to Old Dominion University in the Hampton Roads area in September, aiming to unlock even more of that latent creativity from around the Navy. More to follow on how you can be a part of that!
At The Athena Project we’re truly humbled by the support that this initiative has received both from the fleet and from industry. It’s amazing to think that what started as an unfortunately-named experiment called WikiWardroom has blossomed into a stage for Sailors to have their voices heard by tremendous companies and makers from across the private sector and academia.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this event and we can’t wait to see you guys at our next one! And of course, a very special thank you goes out to our friends at Societe Brewing Company for hosting this awesome event. You guys are are all awesome and drive us to do the things we do!
Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil!