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.

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