Athena Monterey 1.0 Roundup

By LCDR Kristen Wheeler

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Monterey, California -truly a mecca for Naval Innovation – held its first Athena Project Pitch Event back in August at the London Bridge Pub. In a room with a view overlooking historic Monterey bay, six presenters from both Naval Postgraduate School and Defense Language Institute took the stage and brought their big ideas out into the light of day. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and academics from a myriad of backgrounds filled the room not only with their presence, but also their enthusiasm and curiosity.

CDR Andy Newsome, who brilliantly brought two massive commands together and then organized Athena Monterey 1.0, emceed the event. Volunteers from the audience pulled names out of the cup for the order of the presenters… and then were subsequently awarded an Athena Monterey 1.0 custom-designed coin which was 3D-printed at NPS’s Maker Space, Robo Dojo. The presenters then each had 5 minutes to present their idea and then another 5 minutes to answer audience questions.

The evening proved to be electric as compelling insights unfolded one right after another both from the presenters and those who came to support. Here is a quick encapsulation of the concepts presented.

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LT Todd Coursey (NPS) – Maker Box

Navy LT Todd Coursey, a heavyweight in the Navy’s additive manufacturing and Maker Space movement , started the evening off by capturing our attention by bringing in a box about twice the size of a large shoe box. His concept aimed at enabling senior officer and enlisted leadership exposure to advanced digital manufacturing and coding capabilities.   Todd said that this generation is growing up in an environment where digital capabilities have become democratized to the point where seven year olds in third world nations can be taught to create micro-controllers.  Curiosity piqued, he explained to the wide-eyed audience that this box is actually a portable additive manufacturing tool that has the potential to disrupt coding and digital manufacturing education easily and widely, opening up military and civilians to endless possibilities when coupled with a cohesive, creative, and cost-effective curriculum. By giving leaders a three to five day dose of the realm of the possible when it comes to current technology and how easy it is to employ.

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Maj. Nick AionaAka (NPS) – Leadership Reimagined

Nick AionaAka delivered Athena’s first Marine Corps pitch, bringing to the crowd a very relevant and timely idea that will flip collaboration and leadership shortfalls head over heels and into the future with wings. A big believer in organization culture as the root of all innovative commands, Nick offers that giving units or unrelated groups of DoD personnel take a tactical pause and step out of the forest so they can see the trees, could prove just the ticket to help us experience and discuss key pillars such as trust, communication, collaboration, connectedness, and other cultural nuances that are necessary for next generation ingenuity to thrive. But Nick also states that stepping out of the forest proverbially can happen by stepping in an actual forest. Getting back into nature and around a campfire are the best ways to remind ourselves that authentically connecting and learning from one another has a great deal of meaning when we are doing in our most simplest environments.

Peter Ateshian (NPS) – Femto Satellite Communications

NPS Professor Peter Ateshian left the audience in awe when he explained how Femto-Satellites could rewrite the books on how we communicate. With his son by his side, Peter brought a prototype of an actual size satellite… which was ridiculously small by the way… and passed it around the audience so we could truly understand just how disruptive and enhancing this technology could be. Not only can these miniature satellite carry a signal which provide timing and position, they work in our atmosphere, in space… and can float in the ocean. Lasting 6-8 weeks, the mini-sats cost a meager $30 a pop and the capabilities that can be provided are absolutely endless.

Cpt Sarah Martin (DLI) – Aptitude Targeting

Over from Defense Language School, Army CPT Sarah Martin followed up next and presented a solution set that could increase effective recruiting of amazing foreign language instructors – The “Unicorns.” Finding exceptional language instructors at DLI is no easy task… hunting needles in haystacks, especially for obscure languages. Sarah believes we can not only find a wider selection of instructor candidates to teach our Sailors, Soldiers, Airman and Marines, but they can be found with lesser manpower… simply by harnessing the power of social media. Using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… even Snapchat and Instagram can be used to reach specific audiences… namely language instructors in this case. By capitalizing on public demographic information that users provide to social media sites, DLI can include this into their marketing and recruiting strategies. Targeting ads through Facebook, for example, can cost very little… as much as $0.24 a click… sometimes event less. And without being invasive, it allows people who possess the skillsets needed to teach a language to find out about employment opportunities at DLI they might not have otherwise known about. Sarah’s idea wowed the audience as she was peppered with questions and idea riffs following her presentation.

CPO John-Mark Allen (DLI) – Realizing the Paperless Navy

Chief John-Mark Allen stirred the crowd by asking anew the question every person in the Department of Defense has pondered at some point… What ever happened to the notion of a paperless Navy? His question was has been asked for over 18 years now since it was first proposed in 1998. And though there are some places where we have gone paperless, for example using NSIPS to route leave documents, we still have no shortage of blue and red folders plaguing commands. Breaking the old paradigm requires a culture shift, and Chief Allen proposes posing an internal “tax” on paper and toner. By increasing the price of paper and toner, commands will be pushed to adopt to myriad of other solutions for electronically routing documents.

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LT Jesse Iwuji (NPS)– NASCAR Recruiting
**Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage**

Our last presenter, LT Jesse Iwuji, immediately captured the audiences undivided attention by taking the stage in his NASCAR racing gear. As it turns out, we have within our Navy ranks a bonafide NASCAR driver… and one of two African American drivers in the circuits. When he’s not the Director of Student Services at NPS, Jesse hits the track. Jesse proposed using his influence within the NASCAR racing fan base to promote and recruit for the Navy. Because he is the only active duty driver and a minority on the circuit, Jesse attracts the camera nearly every single race. He garners an average of $1.5 million dollars worth of airtime, which is actively promotes the Navy because he’s a proud Surface Warfare Officer. However, there is more potential. The Navy could easily capture an even bigger ROI by being the only service in history to sponsor a car driven not only by their own service member, but an active duty one at that. It’s a no brainer… which is why Jesse won the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.

Plans for Athena Monterey 2.0 and updates on our presenters coming soon… so stay tuned!

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Athena East 3.0 Roundup

The Athena Project returned to the Norfolk area for the third installment, accompanied by terrific weather and a great audience for an out outdoor event. The event was held at the River Stone Chophouse in Suffolk, VA on October 19 at 1800

The presenters pitched ideas to an audience charged with excitement and an illustrious panel including CAPT Heritage, CAPT Kiss, and ONR Science Advisor Mr. Blakely. All 7 of the projects struck a chord with those in attendance, stirring conversations on how to improve things.

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The Audience Assembles on an Evening Perfect for an Outdoor Setting.

CPO Rory Satnik – Hydrophobic Coating on Sonar Arrays
**Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage**


CPO Satnik proposed coating Sonar Arrays for increased performance. He proposed coating current Navy towed SONAR arrays with a superhydrophobic coating and thereby reducing the drag coefficient of the array and gaining what is referred to in SONAR as crucial decibels (dB) in an effort to increase our opportunity for detecting contacts of interest.

He also proposed coordinating a ships entry into a dry dock maintenance period as an opportunity to coat the hull mounted SONAR array with the same hydrophobic coating.  Terrific idea!

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Rory drives the point home.

PO2 Brenden Hebert NCDOC – Cross Organization Red Teaming for Navy


Recent Cyber related incidents have taken place on legacy or extraneous networks where our ability to oversee or act is limited due to the lack coverage and understanding. An example of this would be the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach of 2015 or a site such as the MWR, which may lay outside of our visibility spectrum. PO2 Hebert proposed the organization of a team or teams who have the responsibility of mapping, documenting, and hardening these potential vulnerabilities. The Navy currently implements some of these items through “Red Teams”, however the scope of these teams is primarily focused on our primary assets such as commands or ships. His proposal included a much more thorough understanding of these spaces to increase coverage and visibility. According to PO2, as it stands we have a incomplete view of the battle space that is the cyber world; more importantly the lack of information is represented in our own interests and assets. Without having proper knowledge of our own systems, cyber defense is much harder, enemies might exploit backdoors that we don’t have visibility on. This poses a potential risk to the DoD at large as seen again with the OPM breach last year.

LTJG Kindervater USS RHODE ISLAND – Shipyard Casualty Response Tracking (SCRT)


LTJG Kindervater discussed a prototype of a device he built to provide Rapid personnel identification via RFID. The system featured plug-in power with battery backup to ensure system continuity, real-Time tracking to facilitate relief preparation, flexibility to assign placeholder names for personnel external to the command, and data logging to allow post-casualty event reconstruction.
This tool was developed due to the large number of potential responders to shipboard casualties. He believes a system that rapidly and accurately tracks ship’s force personnel responding to emergencies onboard the ship is required. Difficulties lie in distinguishing personnel in full-body firefighting ensembles and tracking stay times of firefighting teams in-hull. Based on his personal experience, existing methods require coordination between the staging area and supervisory location, which places unnecessary strain on DC Central supervisors. His concept rapidly identifies personnel, tracks firefighting team assignments and stay times, and provides the flexibility to augment ship’s force with personnel from neighboring vessels and firefighting units. By providing an up-to-date picture of deployed manpower, it eases strain on the supervisory element of casualty response, enabling more critical assessment of other casualty data.

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The Shark Panel Listening Intently

PO3 Brady Jordan FRCMA Washington – Clean Laser Preservation System

PO3 Jordon explained his innovative idea to replace the fleets abrasive blasting methods with a clean laser system. He explained the reduction of cost, man hours, and hazardous waste that would result in its use. He provided figures to convince the audience that this was something the Navy should attempt. The following link is what PO3 Jordan has in mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSP1vH7-t7s

PO2 Teal USS RHODE ISLAND – Navy Exam Hub

Petty Officer Teal presented a Exam Hub database that he was working on. The Exam Hub program includes all relevant data for exams, their questions, and all personnel that have taken an exam or answered a question. The database contains five main data tables with a separate data table for every question and person for its history. Exams for any rate or watch station can be generated by topic, watchstation, rate, and difficulty level at the click of a button. It included personnel question history to provide training recommendations and show weak areas. It had an easy method to input questions into database that will be stored indefinitely in a secure database. It also featured easy integration with graphical libraries to provide visual feedback to include trend graphs, distributions, and any other visual feedback that is desired. This idea was deemed relevant and useful because of training administrative difficulties that arise on every ship specifically based on exam approval time.

LT Peoples USS RHODE ISLAND (Enhanced Force Protection Training in Shipyards

*Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage 1st Runner Up*


LT Peoples demonstrated the creative method he has developed to train his Sailors without access to resources available to him in the past. He explained ideas that he would like to employ, but needed some help from the enterprise to fully realize. Specifically, ships in naval shipyards are in a position where they cannot easily exercise their skills on their own ship. To provide for a more realistic approach that doesn’t require the Sailor to attend external schooling he proposed using decommissioned ships in the shipyard as a training ground for security forces. The training would involve airsoft style training weapons to put Sailors in simulated situations where they are able to demonstrate and reinforce previous training. He would have the armed watchstanders to respond to a threat in a simulated live fire environment where if they fail to use good judgment/tactics they will receive immediate tactile feedback. His training would use existing areas and only require an initial investment for purchase of the weapons and supporting material, as well as a small maintenance fee to keep up consumable stock. This training could be controlled by the command and be worked into existing schedules as to maximize shipboard participation and enhance the security forces.

LTJG McGough NNWC – Software as a Service for Naval Networks


LTJG McGough presented a proposal for the creation of a Navy Digital Service – a Navy component to the Defense Digital Service that will develop and maintain software-as-a-service to meet the Navy’s unique requirements. He wanted to change the Navy’s model of a one time purchase of software to a continuous development cycle more in line with the commercial software industry. LTJG McGough’s proposal was very insightful and forward thinking.

Event Host

A Huge Thanks to Adam for Putting Together Such a Great Event!


All-in-all a great group of presenters showed up and delivered their pitches to an enthusiastic audience. The night was an amazing opportunity to facilitate discussion and encourage out of the box thinking. Based on the audience and the presenter’s conversations I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of these ideas implemented in some form in the near future.

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