Athena DC 1.0 Roundup

By LT George Yacus

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Hi everyone, Kilt here!  Long time listener, but first time contributor here on The Athena Project.

Athena DC 1.0 — what a success on so many frontsincluding the beautiful Potomac waterfront!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Yes, I have to talk about location and timing!  

Riding on the evening coattails of the local 2016 SEA  AIR SPACE expo Monday night gave Athenians several great benefits for this inaugural session, including:

  • An absolutely marvelous conference center snuggled in Maryland’s growing National Harbor on the beautiful Potomac (with access to adult beverages during the session if desired)
  • A great showing of inquisitive participants from the Navy League’s Global Maritime Exposition, and
  • Closer access to the refreshing Navy leadership who live on the fringes of our nation’s capital.

VADM Phil Cullom, Dr. Larry Schuette, Dr. Ralph Semmel, and Sharon Beermann-Curtin each took time out of their busy schedules–and maybe even missed a meeting or two–just so they could support our five Athena idea warriors as panelists.  What a testament to their commitment in making innovation a priority for action and engagement!

INTRODUCTION

The session kicked off with Dave Nobles as our jovial Master of Ceremonies, sharing the history of Athena–which has held about 20 events so far and has become a beacon of success for Naval innovation.  He also shared with us the concept behind  Athena’s snazzy new logo.

Indeed, as Dave said, The Athena Project has become the “Bat Signal” for Naval innovation success.  

ATHENA

Only in this case, there is no “super hero” coming to the Navy’s rescue here in our nation’s capital city, which is normally known for legislative sausage-making, 15 year defense acquisition cycles, and risk-averse policy decisions from whom VADM Cullom likes to call “The Borg”.

Borg

Acquisitions? Make it slow.

Instead, our heroes are diverse individuals just like you, who are not satisfied with assimilation into a sub par status quo!  Instead, you are folks who exhibit our Navy’s core values with intellectual honor, courage, and commitment.  You are willing to get an idea, run with it, and make it into a reality.

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INSPIRATION!

After Dave got us going, our five presenters and audience gained encouragement from the ideation powerhouse that is FRCMA (Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic).  

“Our command actually fosters innovation…from concept to culture.” said one of the guest speakers, ATC Williams from FRCMA, who was “blown away by communication between juniors and seniors” evident at his command, which has not one but two ideation think tanks that meet every other week, and also has systems in place where anyone can share their creative ideas.   

Chief Williams and the FRCMA team shared nearly a dozen ideas and processes they’ve developed and implemented in the realm of Navy innovation, which he describes as “taking what’s out there, and using it in a new and exciting way.”  

As a result, their work has spread from FRCs at Oceana and Norfolk to PAX River, New Orleans, and Washington.

But don’t let FRCMA’s success make you think that innovation comes easy, as we all know

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FOD Prevention? Make it glow.

ideation success takes leadership, hard work, and commitment.  Take for example LT Jason Shaw, who has spent ten years developing and then navigating funding and contract waters for his (literally) bright idea, which helps aviation maintenance personnel avoid FOD hazards (back to that theme in a second).  Or consider AD2 Shepard’s ongoing work to develop a better cranial that fits comfortably, doesn’t save up sweat, and requires fewer parts.

Our Athena idea warriors thus gained inspiration from those who have gone before us, knowing that their–and your–ideas, can literally the save the Navy time, money, and more importantly, save the lives of our fellow warfighters.

So regardless of whether or not our idea presenters’ concepts are implemented now, or even a decade from now as they battle “The Borg” or as some of us like to say, the “Frozen

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Innovation? Let it go.

 

Middle”, who just want to let good ideas go away, we’re thankful for all of our attendees’ presence, patience, and persistence, and we’re especially grateful to the Chains of Command that support ideators like them being able to attend!

 

 

DC 1.0 ATHENIANS

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Our Athenians and our Panel from Athena DC 1.0!  (U.S. Navy Photo by John F. Williams)

AT1 MICHAEL PECOTA OF FRCMA DET PAX RIVER: SONAR TRANSDUCER COVER

At the end of AT1 Michael Pecota’s presentation, I think our esteemed panelist ONR Research Director Dr. Larry Schuette put it best:

“Does anyone else think it’s crazy that we don’t already have it capped!?”

AT1 Pecota’s winning idea is a $10 3D printed solution to a $2,000,000 problem.  And that problem is one near and dear to every aircrew and aviation maintenanceman’s heart: FOD…Foreign Object Damage.  The MH-60R (our favorite sub-hunting organic maritime helo) carries a very complex $2M sonar transducer to detect and track lurking submarines.  Unfortunately, when debris makes its way into the transducer, it takes our aviation electronics technicians and maintenance personnel a full hour just to take the cover off and clean house inside the transducer.  By reducing FOD through prevention, AT1 Pecota’s sonar transducer cover can save the Navy upwards of 1708 man hours a year, equivalent to $76,000 back in the Pentagon’s budget.  Sounds great!  Unless you are an enemy submariner, am I right?  His simple solution for a sonar transducer cap earned him the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.  

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AT1 Pecota receives the Admiral Sims Award from VADM Cullom. (U.S. Navy Photo by John F. Williams)

[Note, if you are an MH-60R bubba, looking to get one of these caps for your transducer, reach out and we’ll connect you with AT1 Pecota.  Let’s print these FOD-preventing bad-boys!]

LT JAMES LANDRETH OF NAVAL NUCLEAR POWER TRAINING UNIT, CHARLESTON SC: ADAPTIVE TESTING WITH MINERVA…THE ORACLE SUITE

Our second briefer carried the Athena torch with the mythology theme (woohoo!) LT James Landreth and his team pitched their innovative training/testing program “Minerva”, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, art, Nuclear Power, school, etc.  

Their team sees wide possibilities with the Navy Computerized Adaptive Test system, enabling them to predict with 85% accuracy a student’s success, generate customized or individualized training regimes, provide command leadership data-supported feedback on training systems, and help students avoid test failure.  Nice!

LT DANIEL WALKER OF NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND: AUGMENTED REALITY BRIDGE

Collisions at sea.  They happen.  I wish they didn’t.  LT Walker wants to make them stop happening.  LT Dan wants every ship to keep their sea legs.

As a former CRIC-ster, he is the project lead for OCEAN AUGMENTED REALITY.  The idea is to take all the great sensors and information we have available on a bridge: map data, radar contact information, depth charts, etc., and synthesize it and present it to our watchstanders through augmented reality glasses to reduce collisions.  LT Walker’s project came in second place at Athena DC 1.0.  What an exciting challenge!

LT TAKERU TAJIRI OF  LCS CREW 104: E-SIGNALMAN

This is the idea that made it difficult for me to get to sleep last night!

It doesn’t take an engineer to realize that our electromagnetic spectrum is becoming more and more crowded and contested.  Just ask LT Takeru Tajiri, a Poli-Sci major from the Juggernauts of LCS Crew 104 who wants to breathe new life into an old concept like Morse code by addressing how we communicate when all the radios are jammed, or when EMCON (emissions control) conditions have been established.  The idea is to shift over to the shorter wavelengths on the EM spectrum, using visible light, infrared and/or laser, to send communication data from ship to ship or aircraft, and potentially relay data via unmanned vehicles/balloons to go over the horizon.

I really want to see all the tinkerers out there in the Navy come together and rally around this one, because I just KNOW that some sailors (including midshipmen) out there can design and build this one in a weekend or two!  Who is with me?  Let’s do it!

HM2 JOSHUA CRANFORD OF ANNAPOLIS NAVAL HOSPITAL: PROJECT WATER ENGINE

Our final presenter of the evening had me chuckling as he started with a great pun about sourcing energy and electrical current from water in the form of hydrogen.

HM2 Joshua Cranford is ready for the Navy to lead the way in green energy!  Taking inspiration from the SECNAV’s Great Green Fleet initiative, HM2 wants to transition to H2… using hydrogen gas as a safer, climate friendly, and some day cost effective alternative fuel source to fossil fuels.  Citing many recent trends, including successful projects from the University of West Virginia, HM2 Cranford encouraged us to take the long look for sustainability in how we power our Fleet.  His presentation, while cut a little short due to timing, was still a gas!

CONCLUSION

Wow, what a night!  In the end VADM Cullom tied it all together by spotlighting the strategic link between deckplate ideation, and Design for Maritime Superiority released by the Chief of Naval Operations. Specifically, he cited the line of effort regarding High Velocity Learning.  He also explained that he wants to see Athena spread to every fleet concentration area.

“I have been in awe of what Athena has done…”

-VADM Phil Cullom (OPNAV N4)

We’re so thankful for our presenters for having the courage to share their ideas.  How exciting it is that we can have sailors from all across the US come and meet together to make positive change in our Navy.  Even though this was the first Athena event in DC, I’d say the “Bat Signal” is shining brightly here.  Again, we must thank the leadership who have helped empower deckplate thinkers.

In conclusion, for some, it has been a 10 year journey to get here!  And for others, it was just a few minutes of traffic around the DC Beltway.  But regardless of whether you are an idea creator or an idea catalyst, newcomer or serial thinker, wherever you are in the realm of Naval innovation, remember, as VADM Cullom said this evening about The Athena Project…

This is your forum!”

 

LT George Yacus is an MH-60S helo bubba, currently on shore duty to USNA at the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, where he provides communication and outreach for student academic support services, including training midshipmen in collaborative learning techniques, speed reading, time management, and more.  In his free time he connects with other creative thinkers around the Yard and Fleet, and he is always looking to find ways to introduce innovation communities to midshipmen, faculty, and staff, and especially the aviation community at USNA.

There are Athena events coming soon to fleet concentration areas around the globe, so if you’re in Mayport, San Diego, Yokosuka and Norfolk – get ready! If you’re interested in starting a movement of your own, find us on Facebook or Twitter (@athenanavy) or e-mail us at athenanavy@gmail.com!

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Athena DC 1.0 – Right Around The Corner!

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We’re less than a week away from Athena DC 1.0 at Sea Air Space, and we’re excited to bring forth some tremendous ideas from around the fleet!

At 7:00 PM on Monday, May 16th in the Potomac Room C at the Gaylord National Convention Center, we’ll have six Sailors pitching their great ideas to make the Navy better in front of the assembled crowd as well as a panel of four esteemed thought leaders in the innovation space.

The panelists will provide a great perspective to each presenter, bringing forth their wealth of knowledge to give insightful feedback after each presentation. VADM Phil Cullom, OPNAV N4; Dr. Ralph Semmel, Director of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Dr. Larry Schuette, Director of Research at the Office of Naval Research; and Sharon Beermann-Curtin, Deputy Director of the Strategic Capabilities Office join our team for the night to help propel these projects further.

Our presenters, in alphabetical order, are HM2 Joshua Cranford of the Annapolis Naval Hospital, MA2 Edward Glospie of NSF Lakehurst at Fort Dix, LT James Landreth of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, AT1 Michael Pecota of FRCMA Detachment Patuxent River, LT Takeru Tajiri of LCS Crew 104, and LT Daniel Walker of Naval Supply Systems Command.

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The Gaylord National Convention Center – Ground Zero for Athena DC 1.0 on Monday. Come by! It’s FREE!

These six presenters were selected by the Athena National Council from an incredibly impressive group of submissions. For those not selected this time around, fear not: There will be loads of opportunities to get your great ideas on stage in the future.

In addition to our presenters, we’ll have a past Athenian at the event to share his innovation success story with the crowd. While the awesome things that people have done in the realm of Department of Defense innovation often inspire us, our team is especially excited to give the stage to LT Jason Shaw to share his stories with the group. LT Shaw, a participant at Athena East 1.0, will be sharing his story of innovation at his command and a funded project that he’s brought to life.

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The scene at Athena West 4.0 in San Diego. We’re excited to add new Athenians into our midst!

For those unfamiliar with The Athena Project, here’s how the event works: presenters will have five minutes to present their idea. After the pitch, the panel will provide brief feedback to the presenter, which will be followed by five minutes of question and answer from the crowd. Once the Q&A is complete, the crowd will vote on the concept, grading the idea on three criteria: Idea quality, Actionability, and Presentation. Once all our Athenians have pitched their concepts, our team will calculate votes in order to determine the winner of the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage, which earns the lucky presenter the power of the Athena network to turn their idea into reality.

For all the fellow innovators in the region, admission to Sea Air Space, as well as Athena DC 1.0 is free, so we hope to have a great turnout to support the three officers and three enlisted Sailors that have demonstrated the intellectual courage to share their big ideas. Remember: No uniforms necessary – this is a casual event that’s open to all!

Looking forward to a great time on Monday night! See you there!

ATHENA Silicon Valley 1.0 Roundup

It’s little wonder we struck gold with the ideas sourced from service-members working in Silicon Valley, both active and reserve.  The first event was a hit – some of the most impactful and actionable ideas wrapped into a single event so far.

Gail Kirk

MA1 Gail Kirk stealing the show

*** ATHENA Silicon Valley 1.0 Admiral Sims Winner ***

Tactical Vests and Diversity Implications – MA1 Gail Kirk, San Jose NOSC

MA1 Gail Kirk has extensive experience in law enforcement and force protection as well as public speaking, and it showed!  She captivated the audience with her pitch, communicating the value of diversity by properly equipping females with tactical bullet proof vests designed with a female’s body in mind.  Citing several serious problems with the current “one-size fits all” approach that the Navy has undertaken with tactical gear, she explained how the both the Army and the Marines adapted tactical gear for females, calling out the instructions that require Navy women to wear the same gear as men.  This is a simple matter of policy that should be adopted directly from the Army’s lessons learned in procuring tactical vests that fit properly.  At the end of the Q&A session, we learned that an audience member already drafted and sent an email to the Navy’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.   We expect that this issue will be resolved soon, and the audience showed their approval by selecting her as the winner of the Admiral Sim’s Award for Intellectual Courage!

Josh Steinman

LT Josh Steinman Fielding Questions

 Sneaks vs. Geeks – LT Josh Steinman, NOSC San Jose / DIUx

LT Josh Steinman was the runner up to the Admiral Sims Award and finished off the event by describing an exercise in tactical agility.  His concept, named Sneaks vs. Geeks, would be a challenge in which conventional troops or special forces were pit against unconventional “super nerds” leveraging hacking skills and commercial technologies to achieve the same objectives.  The exercise would be a great way to engage Silicon Valley experts in a fun and thought provoking scenario guaranteed to challenge conventional approaches to accomplishing military objectives.  Lessons he hopes to capture from the exercise include how to counter the unconventional strategies or how to adopt them.  Josh already garnered some buy-in for his concept and is looking for help in implementation.  During his Q&A time, the crowd identified three potential ranges to facilitate the event. He’s well on his way to making some magic happen!

Jacob Smitely

GM1 Jacob Smitely with a video demo

 From Gaming to Training in Virtual Environments – GM1 Jacob Smitely, San Jose NOSC

GM1 Jacob Smitely followed with a very compelling pitch of his own.  Jacob possesses a special skill as gamer.  His understanding of gaming systems goes deep into the development, underlying structures, and interfaces of high fidelity multi-player gaming environments.  He pitched the concept of using modern games to create virtual training environments.  He showed the audience how some games allow users to modify and create content and that there are games already containing user generated models of naval platforms that possessing surprising fidelity.  His vision is to combine the training experts in the afloat training group with some game experts to set up a few scenarios that would accomplish a number of learning objectives.  Jacob’s concept took third place overall and was promised additional opportunities for his idea to be vetted pending his generation of a white paper that can be circulated to potential sponsors.

Tony Schumacher

Major Tony Schumacher pitches novel use of 360 video

 Tech to the Troops – Maj. Tony Schumacher, DIUx

Major Tony Schumacher, an Air Force reservist recalled to active duty to work within the Air Force element of DIUx, kicked off the event with a plan to integrate cutting edge 360 video and virtual reality technology. This technology would provide deployed troops the opportunity to experience important events that they missed while on deployment, which was previously unavailable. Tony offered one scenario in which one could rent a 360 degree field-of-view camera from MWR and bring it to a wedding or birthday. The video would be stored on a hard drive and uploaded into a cloud environment, where the service member could view the event through a virtual reality headset while being fully immersed in the experience he or she missed while deployed (and without internet connectivity). Giving the service members the opportunity to rent and play with this innovative technology could help them feel closer to loved ones while also familiarizing them with the art of the possible. Ideas for other applications in the work environment would naturally follow. Tony shared that he is planning to further explore this idea as he enters Stanford’s Ignite program.

Michelle Mehrayin

HM3 Michelle Mehrayin breaking open possibilities in mobile technology for military users

Mobile Information Sharing Application – HM3 Michelle Mehrayin, San Jose NOSC

HM3 Michelle Mehrayin proposed an idea to develop a mobile, Twitter-style, communications application for military users.  In her reserve duties, Michelle is a Hospital Corpsman while in her civilian life she is a software developer with a master’s degree in software engineering.  Details provided in her pitch demonstrated that she possess both the skill and the desire to help get this idea through initial prototyping and she has the technical knowledge to map many of the requirements required for full implementation.  Before leaving for the evening she had an offer to connect with developers at SPAWAR Systems Command Pacific, who developed a similar application called FUSION that resides within the labs and behind CAC authentication.  FUSION is in need of a mobile instantiation while Michelle is in need of some technical experts with whom to collaborate – looking forward to where they can go together!

Brian Grubbs

CDR Brian Grubbs pitching an idea enabling a data savvy workforce

 A Path to Creating a Data Savvy Workforce – CDR Brian Grubbs, NOSC Alameda

CDR Brian Grubbs pitched a pathway to a data savvy workforce by taking a simple, executable step: include an entry level data management course as a portion of basic training for both enlisted personnel and officers.  Brian highlighted several examples of how appropriately formatting data in Excel facilitates much stronger analytics.  He expertly summed up the importance of composing data sets by sharing a couple of instances where he was able to demonstrate predictable behavior through data analysis, exposing unseen weaknesses that an enemy could leverage against us.  If we are serious about becoming a learning organization, we must first learn how to better manage data to extract valuable insights.

Networking

Always a great time building connections!

In summary, we observed that all the ideas presented were very much aligned with strategies currently being pushed out by senior leadership.

  • Gail provided an actionable approach to encourage diversity,
  • Tony’s concept promoted a broader understanding of cutting edge technology
  • Josh hit a chord with DIUx’s core mission to engage Silicon Valley and build productive relationships
  • Michelle’s concept fit well under a drive to better utilize mobile devices
  • Jacob cast a vision to leverage virtual environments in a low cost way – touching on a Task Force for Innovation (TFI) Initiative
  • Brian’s concept to create a data savvy workforce aligned with a memo recently signed by the SECNAV

Whether or not these ideas see full implementation or partial implementation, they will continue to shape the conversations surrounding these important topics to the DoD. ATHENA Silicon Valley was a terrific event and we would like to extend a big “thank you” to all the presenters who had the courage to take a stand.