2048… The Magic Number

By LCDR Kristen Wheeler

2048

Being a mobile gaming app addict, I came across one particular addictive game a couple months ago. “2048”, published by Ketchapp in app stores in 2014, is ridiculously easy to grasp while still providing a difficult challenge. The rules are simple… move the blocks horizontally or vertically to combine adjacent, like numbers until you reach 2048. For example, a block with the number “2” can only be combined with another block with the number “2” that is beside, above, or below it. When you combine two “2” blocks… you make a “4” block. Then you can push two “4” blocks together to make an “8” block, and then two “8” blocks together to make a “16” block… and so on and so forth… until you finally have created an opportunity to push two “1024” blocks together for the win. It’s not as easy as you think.

So take a second a download it. It’s free. The rest of the article might make a little more sense after you’ve played the game. If you become addicted, it’s not my fault.

After playing an embarrassing number of hours on this game (mostly never at work), it occurred to me that this game illustrates a fantastic strategy when it comes to scale and collaboration with respect to the multitude of emergent innovation efforts happening throughout the Navy and Marine Corps.

Over the last year I’ve been keeping a list of all the different innovation related ideas, projects, efforts, cells, and groups (of various maturity, sizes, scope, focus, audience, legitimacy, credibility, support, and funding) that have sprouted up throughout the Department of the Navy (and beyond). We have Secretary of the Navy’s Strategy and Innovation Department, Task Force Innovation (TFI), Naval Innovation Advisory Council (NIAC), The Hatch, CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), The Athena Project, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), DEFx, Tactical Advancement for Next Generation (TANG), Junior Enlisted Innovation Think Tank (JITT), Naval Innovation Network (NIN), MD5, MilSuite, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), High Velocity Learning (HVL), TOOLKit, Cognitive Warrior Continuum, Illuminate, MMOWGLI, Junior Officer Symposium, Hacking 4 Defense, Hack the Sky, Hack the Machine, Innovation Certificate at NPS, USMC Wearable Challenge, PEO-EIS Innovation Cell, FabLabs, RoboDojo, Future Strategy Forum, Naval STEM, RDT&E Strategic Cell, and so much more.

In addition, there are a wide array of official and unofficial places that are publishing various innovation efforts which include (but certainly not limited to); SECNAV’s Strategy & Innovation, Athena Project, DEF, Atlantic Council, Naval Institute (website and Proceedings), Naval Science and Technology Future Force Magazine, War on the Rocks, Connecting the Dots, Military Writers Guild, CIMSEC, The Navalist, Defense One, and good ole Navy Times… just to name a few.

So what does this all of this have to do with “2048”? Over the last 14 months of watching super smart Sailors and DoN Civilians roll up their sleeves to implement their great idea, there is almost always that moment of defeat. The innovator stands at the edge of the cliff, overlooking a massive chasm, and wondering how on Earth they will ever be able to cross it and scale their idea into their biggest vision. “2048” could offer a solution to the ever growing multitude of emergent innovation efforts… we need to start combining.

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“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

What if groups that harvested Sailor’s ideas (2) were combined with research and development units (2) in an effort to build a true partnership (2+2) where Sailors ideas were systematically researched and funded each and every quarter (4)? Then what if one of the new innovation culture-based workshops (2) mated with an organizational metrics and collection team (2), thereby solidifying (2+2) as a quantifiable and adaptable learning program (4)? And then what if this new adaptable learning program (4), which exposed more Sailors to creative, cognitive, systems thinking mechanisms combined systematically researched Sailor’s ideas (4) to reinforce (4 +4) an inclusive systems approach to learning through real impact (8). There are a million other variables that we can continue to merge together.   The point is that when we combine our efforts, we become stronger. Dollars to ideas to education to collaboration opportunities to networks to organizational culture… what if we ask ourselves, how can I collaborate in such a way that both parties end up twice as strong in the end? And lest we forget the power of the media! By the time we are breaking barriers, we must share what we are doing so that others may gain insight and inspiration! A fusion of entertaining media (1024) and amazing advances brought about by radical collaboration (1024), only leads us to the ever coveted 2048.

Reflecting back on my time as a NIAC Fellow in FY16, one of the most valuable lessons I learned is that power and accomplishment comes from sustainable partnerships. No one can get their idea off the ground alone. It literally takes a village, or in our case, a Fleet. The only way we can scale and grow and instill the systemic culture changing behaviors (agility and adaptability being at the top of that list) in order to take ideas into meaningful realities is to combine efforts… and then perhaps 4096 will then be the new magic number.

 

Kristen Wheeler is the Executive Officer of the Navy Operational Support Center, San Jose. Before she was a NIAC Fellow, she founded The Athena Project’s Southeast chapter.

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!

Athena East 3.0: One Week Away!

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Greetings, Athenians! We hope you’re as excited as we are for the upcoming Athena East 3.0 pitch event that’s a week from today!

The event will be at the River Stone Chophouse in Suffolk, VA on October 19th at 1800. You can register to attend right here.

Our Athena pitch events provide a venue for Sailors and DoD employees to present their big ideas to make their organization or the Navy better. Selected presenters will have five minutes to present their idea and then five additional minutes to field questions from the crowd and the assembled panel of leaders. At the end of all pitches, the crowd will vote on the concepts based on impact, actionability and presentation to award the top concept the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.

The Purpose of Athena East 3.0 is to connect Sailors with ideas to an audience of professionals from the military, academia, industry, and the community who are supportive of military problem solving and problem ownership.  We want to develop a cadre of forward-thinking, creatively confident Sailors for the Fleet of tomorrow and build a diverse, supportive network to help them move forward.  Build a sense of problem ownership, where a Sailor sees a problem and develops a solution, and presents to leadership to get specific support. Athena East 3.0 is an informal gathering to hear, support, and celebrate Service-members and/or DoD civilians acting on their passion to improve their unit or service.For more on how Athena works and some of our past events, check out our roundup articles while you’re here on the blog!

There’s still time if you’re interested in presenting! The window to submit concepts is open, and if you’re interested, e-mail our Athena East Chapter lead at vakahnke@gmail.com with a brief summary your idea. The selection of the 5-6 presenters will be made on Sunday!

As an added bonus for this Athena event, registered attendees will have special access to the Submarine Information Exchange Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG) technology expo at the Lockheed Martin Lighthouse  prior to the event. Come by and check out the fantastic technology companies that are inspiring the TANG workshop participants before heading over to the Chophouse!

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

 

 

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.  

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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”.

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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!

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!

Announcing ATHENA DC 1.0!

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Athena has just Leveled Up!

Welcome to the next level of grassroots innovation, where we join forces with internal champions and external contributors in our most meaningful way yet.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to engage in the cutting edge of integration between generations of movers and shakers in the Military and the most advanced industrial and academic support.  

Athena is seeking energetic, inspired, and forward-leaning intrapreneurs on a quest for organizational change to pitch at our  inaugural Athena DC event, in partnership with the Navy League, at the 2016 Sea Air Space Exposition.  

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Bringing together the wisdom and empowerment senior leadership, diverse talent of thought leaders from industry and acedemia, and a cadre of deckplate innovators, this will be an event you won’t want to miss.  Presenters will have the opportunity to pitch their concepts for improving the military and National Security to a panel of senior leaders as well as a diverse audience that brings together best of the government, academic, and commercial worlds.  Like all of our events, the format will be informal and fun: no uniforms required, amongst great company, and with an atmosphere electric with possibilities.

All we need is you. If you have a big idea to make your command, the Navy, the Military, or the Department of Defense better, we want to hear it! Submit your proposed concepts to Athena via e-mail or social media for selection to pitch at this groundbreaking event! Our goal is to deliver 6-8 powerful pitches to the assembled crowd, with a laser focus on turning these concepts to reality.

In our past events, we’ve had many ideas begin the path to transition, receiving in excess of $1M in funding to deliver game-changing concepts to the fleet. Most recently, two Athena pitches received $100K in funding apiece to transition solutions to the fleet. Come throw your hat in the ring and make the Navy better!

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Our proud Athenians well represented at the West Coast Innovation Jam. Which Athena DC presenter will pursue funding at our first East Coast Innovation Jam?

This event will showcase your big ideas, but will also tell the story of several success stories. You’ll be able to hear from, and meet with the young innovators that are currently prototyping solutions to send to the Fleet and increase our Navy’s capabilities.

Join us at 7pm on Monday, May 16th at the Gaylord Center.  The event is free and open to all at the Sea Air Space Exposition and the DC area! Check the Sea Air Space event list / website for the specific room.  Don’t miss it!   

Come join the movement! Let’s work together to make our Military a force of the future!

 

Innovation Jam Roundup

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By Dave Nobles

Wednesday’s Innovation Jam onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2) was an important and monumental moment for Naval Innovation.

The event was sponsored by a number of organizations, including Commander Pacific Fleet, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The support of such senior leadership for Deckplate Innovation made the event a resounding success, demonstrated in spades through awarding not one but two Sailors $100,000 to fund their concepts through prototyping and transition.

That’s the important part. Ideas born out of frustration, perseverance, and a quest to make the Navy better have been funded. However, the significance of the Innovation Jam is beyond the funding.

During the Innovation Jam, the assembled crowd of Sailors and government civilians listened to senior uniformed leadership within the Navy, like the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift; The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Readiness and Logistics, Vice Admiral Phil Cullom and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens. The three military speakers kicked off the event with a volley of support for The Athena Project, Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG), The Hatch, The Bridge, and other efforts to bring about positive change.  Each message resonated with the entrepreneurial and intraprenurial philosophies.

The voices of those senior leaders, combined with civilian thought leaders such as Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, the first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Microsoft and founder of Intellectual Ventures and Dr. Maura Sullivan, the Department of the Navy’s Chief of Strategy and Innovation, all echoed the a consistent theme:

Innovation is about taking risks.

The sponsorship, collaborative support and allocation of resources serves as a beacon of thoughtful risk taking by senior leadership in the Navy. And, funding two Sailor concepts serves as inspiration to empower all Sailors at all levels to share their own ideas and as a clear signal from the Navy’s top brass that they’re not only listening but that they’re also ready to act.

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Sailors and engineers work together to reframe their concepts during athenaTHINK at SSC Pacific

Over two days in San Diego, six Sailors who presented ideas through innovation initiatives such as The Athena Project, TANG, and The Hatch, were given the opportunity to interface with scientists and engineers at SSC Pacific and ONR to reframe and refine their concepts at an athenaTHINK event before presenting their ideas at the Innovation Jam to a panel of experts, who would decide a winner.

On the panel Dr. Myhrvold and Dr. Sullivan were joined by Dr. Stephen Russell of SSC Pacific, Mr. Scott DiLisio of OPNAV N4, Dr. Robert Smith of ONR, Mr. Arman Hovakemian of Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division, ETCM Gary Burghart of SSC Pacific and the Commanding Officer of the host ship, USS ESSEX, CAPT Brian Quin.

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The panelists evaluating the pitches onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2)

The panel heard the six pitches and, after deliberation, Dr. Russell announced the results:

First Place: LTJG Rob McClenning, USS GRIDLEY (DDG 101)

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LTJG McClenning and Dr. Russell

LTJG McClenning presented his concept which he originally pitched at Athena West 3.0 called the Unified Gunnery System (UGS). The system would provide ballistic helmets equipped with augmented reality visors to the Sailors manning machine guns topside on a warship, and command and control via tablet in the pilot house. Commands given on the touch screen would provide indications to the gunners displaying orders, bearing lines and more. The system would be wired to prevent cyber attacks. The augmented reality capability of the system would mitigate potential catastrophic results of misheard orders due to the loud fire of the guns, and improve accuracy and situational awareness. LTJG McClenning received $500 for his concept, and $100K to develop the idea in collaboration with SSC Pacific.

Second Place: LT Bill Hughes, OPNAV N96

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LT Hughes and Dr. Russell

LT Hughes flew in from Washington, DC to pitch his concept, also from Athena West 3.0. The idea, CosmoGator, aims to automate celestial navigation through installed, gyro-stabilized camera mounts and small-scale atomic clocks to provide redundant Position, Navigation and Timing data to shipboard navigation and weapons systems. LT Hughes’ concept would continually update inertial navigation systems to enable continued operations in the event of GPS denial. Previously, this concept had been explored by the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell. LT Hughes received $300 and in a surprise move, OPNAV N4 funded his idea with $100K as well.

Third Place: GMC Kyle Zimmerman, Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific

GMC Zimmerman’s concept, originally presented at Athena West 4.0, intends to bring virtual reality to the Combat Information Center. Through the use of commercially available headsets, GMC Zimmerman proposed streaming a live optical feed of a ship’s operating environment to watchstanders to increase situational awareness and provide increased capability in responding to casualties such as Search and Rescue. GMZ Zimmerman received $200 for his idea.

Honorable Mention: LCDR Bobby Hsu, Commander, Task Force 34

LCDR Hsu pitched an idea from Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare (TASW) TANG for a consolidated information database for the litany of data required to effectively manage the TASW mission. The concept, Automated Response for Theater Information or ARTI, would leverage voice recognition software like the kind found in the Amazon Echo or Apple’s Siri, to enable watchstanders and commanders alike rapid access to critical information.

Honorable Mention: LT Clay Greunke, SSC Pacific

LT Greunke presented a concept that he began developing during his time at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and pitched at Athena West 9.0. His concept leverages virtual reality to more effectively train Landing Signals Officers (LSO) by recreating the simulator experience of an entire building in a laptop and Oculus headset. LT Greunke demonstrated his prototype for the panelists and described a vision for the LSO VR Trainer, called ‘SEA FOG,’ as the first piece of an architecture of virtual reality tools to improve training in a number of communities and services.

Honorable Mention: OSC Erik Rick, Naval Beach Group ONE

OSC Rick first presented his idea for a combined site to host all required computer based training on The Hatch, though he acknowledged that the concept had been a highly visible entry on The Hatch, as well as in previous crowd-sourcing initiatives such as Reducing Administrative Distractions (RAD), BrightWork and MilSuite. His concept is to make universal access tags for civilians, reserve and active duty personnel to enable easy tracking of completed training as well as required training. In his proposal, the host site would combine the requirements of the numerous sites currently hosting training requirements and deliver an App Store-like interface to simplify the experience for users.

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All of our presenters and panelists. America.

Not enough can be said for the courage that all of the presenters demonstrated to take the stage in an nerve-wracking setting and present their ideas. In another good news story, the panelists and the assembled crowd provided feedback to all the presenters, which will assist in the further development of all six concepts.

With the success of the Innovation Jam in the rear view mirror, the process now begins to build on the ideas that received funding. We’ll continue to provide updates of the future successes of the two funded concepts right here on the blog.

This milestone for Naval Innovation is nothing short of monumental. Many can relate to a near exhaustion with the rhetoric surrounding innovation: Agility, fast failure, big ideas, consolidating disparate efforts, getting technology to the warfighters, and certainly partnering partnerships with non-traditional players.  When actions are weighed against rhetoric, it is action that wins, taking the initiative, assuming the initiative to act and moving the needle.  And Wednesday, we saw that happen.

This inaugural Innovation Jam will not be a one-time thing. As stated by VADM Cullom in his Keynote Address the event will be coming to every fleet concentration area in the future. Here at The Athena Project, we’ll continue to push initiatives like the Innovation Jam to inspire the creative confidence to present ideas and aid in any way possible to turn concepts into reality.

And, for those wondering how they might get involved in an events like this, support your local Athena chapter, submit your ideas to The Hatch and participate in workshops like TANG! Participation in these, and any innovation initiative will make you eligible for your regional Innovation Jam!

The future looks bright indeed not only for innovation but for action.

And we’re damn proud to be a part of that.

 

Dave Nobles is a member of the Design Thinking Corps at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the founder of The Athena Project. He is also a Navy Reservist with the Office of Naval Research.

 

Announcing the First Ever Innovation Jam!

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An event coming to San Diego next month aims to slingshot ideas from The Athena Project, among all other innovation initiatives into prototyping orbit.

Co-sponsored by SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and The Athena Project, the first-ever Innovation Jam will bring together engaging presenters in the realm of innovation and engineering, showcase leading edge technology currently under development at SSC Pacific and conclude with an Innovation Championship, wherein seven candidate ideas will compete for $100K in Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funding for prototyping.

On March 16th, the event will kick off at 0900 onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2) and feature a great lineup of speakers. Beyond the flag officer keynote address, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold (founder of Intellectual Ventures and former CTO of the Microsoft Corporation) and Dr. Maura Sullivan (Director of the Secretary of the Navy’s Task Force Innovation) will give engaging talks around the topic of innovation to the Sailors and engineers in attendance.

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USS ESSEX will be the site for the first ever Innovation Jam. 

Following a poster session at lunch, with amazing technologies from SSC Pacific on display, the focus will shift from theory and development to the ideas of seven Sailors, competing for the grand prize of prototype and transition funding for their idea.

Leading up to the event, each presenter will be matched with a subject matter expert in the technology their concept employs from SSC Pacific, and have worked the fine details and science behind their concepts, awaiting the Innovation Jam to unveil their refined ideas.

For the event, past The Athena Project, The Hatch and Tactical Advancements For the Next Generation (TANG) concepts will be featured, including ideas showcasing ideas imagining uses for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, redesigning warfare areas, and changing the way we view navigation. A panel of senior leaders at SSC Pacific, ONR and beyond will evaluate each concept and choose a winner from the group of phenomenal ideas.

The event will be open to all Active Duty personnel in the San Diego region. The Web site for registration will be live soon, so stay tuned to The Athena Project for updates. For more information, reach out through The Athena Project Facebook page, or e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com

Finally, a true platform to transition pure concepts from the deckplates exists, and we hope that you’ll join us for this important event!

Athena: A Plankowner’s Perspective

By: CDR Michele Day

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“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”

— Edward de Bono

This month, theATHENAproject is continuing its growth around the globe. On January 15th at the Yokosuka Naval Base Galley, Athena Far East is kicking off their inaugural event. I am especially excited to see the ideas presented at ATHENA Far East – I’ll tell you why in just a bit.

Athena Far East is this Friday!

Athena Far East is this Friday!

We all know that innovation is fundamentally the process of inventing, introducing, and adopting a new product, practice, system, or behavior. The ability to innovate is impacted by a myriad of factors, some of which are controllable while others are non-controllable. Some people work in an environment that suppresses change or devalues employees who are young and inexperienced. Some people fear failure, think they are not creative enough, or are afraid of speaking publicly.

I’ve been a part of ATHENA since its inception and what an amazing journey it has been. When provided the opportunity to use their VOICE, Sailors are an unstoppable force. An interesting trend I saw in San Diego: The ideas pitched by Sailors were often tied to their parent command’s life cycle. For instance, Sailors who recently returned from deployment expressed ideas more tactical in nature, while those in the shipyard generally had ideas on improving maintenance, and those in the training cycle were focused on streamlining admin and qualifications.

A little throwback picture: The first ever pitch, when Athena was still unfortuntely named WikiWardroom.

A little throwback picture: The first ever pitch, when Athena was still unfortuntely named WikiWardroom.

As I read through the Roundups from ATHENA events I see the same spread of idea generation. This is why I am so excited about ATHENA Far East! Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) units are primarily operational. They find time for maintenance and training, but the lifecycle is more fluid than CONUS based forces. FDNF Sailors are always asking “what can we do to be better warfighters?” If you think about it, nearly all of the ideas pitched at ATHENA events can be tied to Warfighting First:

  • Streamlining admin allows for more training time.
  • Merging databases allows for better tracking of manning and material
  • Modernizing training provides warfighters better suited for today’s technological environment

But as I look into my ATHENA Far East crystal ball, I see FDNF Sailors pitching ideas that leverage current technologies to find new ways to execute the mission and conceptualizing new weapons systems.

As ATHENA has continued to grow, we’ve made a constant effort to innovate our own process, trying out new things and gaining feedback to try and make ATHENA better. In our recent events, we’ve experimented with “Shark Tank-style” panels of leaders to provide concept feedback, awarding personal development experiences to our participants and winners, inviting Sailors who have made headway with their projects as keynote speakers and beyond. In that spirit, we’re prototyping a new experience for our first Far East event! Specifically unique to ATHENA Far East is our partnership with the Defense Entrepreneurship Forum (DEF) as an official Agora and our endorsement by and involvement with the Military Writer’s Guild, and SECNAV’s Naval Innovation Advisory Council.

Brett Vaughn, one of the "Sharks" at Athena East 2.0, getting down to business with a presenter as CAPT Carter and CAPT Bodvake look on.

Brett Vaughn, one of the “Sharks” at Athena East 2.0, getting down to business with a presenter as CAPT Carter and CAPT Bodvake look on.

Expanding to Japan is incredibly exciting for not only ATHENA, but the Naval “Innovation Insurgency” as a whole. But beyond that, I think that it’s important to provide a stage for the bright minds currently serving in this Theater to have their voices heard. We hope that you’re as excited about it as we are.

Come see what ATHENA is all about, and join us in making positive change in the Navy! We hope to see you there!

 

CDR Michele Day is the former Commanding Officer of USS BENFOLD. She’s currently assigned to CTF-70 as the Surface Operations Officer. She’s a proud graduate of Texas A&M and on a never ending journey to grow as a servant leader, positive change instigator, and figuring out how to get her Sailors to ‘give a poop.’

There are loads of Athena Events coming up! If you’re in the San Diego, Groton or Patuxent River areas, connect with us if you want to be a part of our upcoming events! Connect with us 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 athenanavy@gmail.com!

To learn more about Defense Entrepreneurs Agora: http://defenseentrepreneurs.org/about-def-agora/

 

 

Athena West 9.0 Roundup

By LCDR Mark Blaszczyk

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2015 just came to an end, and Athena West 9.0 wrapped up the year with another great event.  We saw another batch of great ideas from innovators poised to make impacts in the coming year and beyond.  

This time we changed things up by kicking the event off with a keynote talk from a Department of the Navy Innovation Hatch winning entry SPIDER 3D presented by Michael Russalesi.  Another first for Athena West was the use of a “shark panel,” providing a unique diversity of perspectives for Athena.  NAVFAC Southwest Commanding Officer CAPT John Adametz joined Prospective Commanding Officer CO of LCS 203 CDR Doug Meagher, and Principal Software Engineer at Fuse Integration Mr. Dell Kronewitter to question, comment, and spark discussion among the innovator-voters in the audience and the great line-up of presenters!

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Keynote speaker Michael Russalesi demonstrates his winning entry on The Hatch, SPIDERS 3D.

Without further ado, our winner is:

*** The Athena West 9.0 Afloat Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

“Mobile Application for Command Sponsorship” – IT1 Ronald Coleman, COMLCSRON ONE

In today’s world almost everyone has a smartphone, why not take advantage of that to ensure our sailors can get the best support? An idea embracing current technologies and the realities of modern living, IT1 Coleman set out to solve the problem of connecting prospective sailors with their future commands.  From IT1 Coleman, “In my experience sponsorship programs within the Navy are inconsistent.  Many individuals seem to have a sense of burden when trying to contact new Sailors and vice versa.   My solution to that “problem” is the development of the In-Hand Sponsor Mobile Application.”  IT1 Coleman has created an application for mobile technologies (ios, android, blackberry, etc.) for our DoD personnel to connect with their prospective command and give them a concise source for the information they need, what the command mission is, who the chain of command consist of, what department to report to, who they should contact, and any other other useful information needed to guide the New Check-in to their new command on time.  

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IT1 Coleman displaying his winning idea.

Having checked into a few commands myself,  I can’t wait to see this one go live.

“Surface Fleet Shift Work Concept” – FCC McKinley Fitzpatrick, COMLCSRON ONE

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FCC McKinley Fitzpatrick talking about how to help ensure the fleet is always ready.

Looking at the challenges presented to sailors during a 24 hour duty day, FCC Fitzpatrick saw an opportunity.  Using an idea he not only saw tested but work effectively, he developed a shift work program to eliminate the 24 hour duty day.  From FCC Fitzpatrick, “The idea is to incorporate (3) eight hour overlapping shifts onboard ships to eliminate the need for 24 hour duty by utilizing the proven concept of duty section manning to meet all workforce/training needs. There are two concepts; Legacy concept (CVN, LHA/LHD, LPD/LSD, CG, DDG) & LCS concept (Minimal Manning).”  His idea maximizes crew readiness by limiting the length of the the work day to ensure a rested and aware crew while at the same time keeping the working 24 hours a day.  He acknowledged the difference between hull types and the challenges of implementing the system but he believes if this is fully embraced the Navy would see an improvement in readiness and quality of life.

“Vertical Integration of Admin Program Management” – LT Josh Sando, COMLCSRON ONE

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LT Sando fielding questions from the panel.

While working to increase readiness in the OPSEC and Safety programs for the Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE, LT Sando stumbled on to the idea that tremendous efficiencies can be had with very simple changes to the implementation of those programs.  By moving program managers designations to the staff, LT Sando saw a reduction of 74% of the administrative burden for the individual units under his cognizance.  Talking about the fleet as whole LT Sando stated, “PACOM stands to benefit should it direct CNSP as a subordinate unit to ensure all Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) Staffs under their cognizance adopt a ‘vertically integrated’ program management construct in relation to their Afloat Safety and OPSEC programs.”   This simple modification implemented at LCSRON ONE resulted in a swing from 0 of 6 to 8 of 8 crews earning the Yellow “E” for Battle Efficiency.   LT Sando’s idea’s simplicity and proven results made it one of the top contenders for the ADM Simms award and idea with truly huge implications.

“Improved Electronic Engineering data and log integration” – LCDR Steve Hartley, ATGPAC SD

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LCDR Hartley making his plea for better use of engineering data.

LCDR Hartley experience as chief engineer officer and as an ATG assessor has led him to believe their is a better way to use the data collected by smart ships to save time and money in ship repairs.  He presented an idea for an automated logging system to bridge the gap between Smart ship engineering systems and the needs to evaluate the trends in operating parameters to save money and time in repairs. His vision is of a web based application that takes the base data, places it in a standard US Navy log format, is reviewable by the required watch standers and applicable Chain Of Command, and automatically performs some of the functions that a watch stander would need to take. The system would be accessible from both shore base and sea based units, have automated data sorting routines, and be able to run while not connected to its shore based server.  Ship and civilian counterparts would be able to communicate real-time to analyze and review data, and digitally sign the individual logs. This system would incorporate the equipment operating logs, the ships bell logs, and the Engineering log.

“Virtual Landing Signal Officer (LSO) trainer” – LT Clay Greunke, SPAWAR 59000

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LT Greunke pitching his trainer concept.

Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) are the backbone of tailhook naval aviation. Currently, once a junior officer is selected from a squadron to become an LSO, that person typically will go through an entire workup cycle before going to the Initial Formal Ground Training (IFGT) course. This means that an LSO will undergo months of on-the-job training at sea and assume different roles needed to recover aircraft before that individual receives his/her first formal training during IFGT. At the center of IFGT is the LSO Trainer, Device 2H111, in which the LSO receives a series of six one-hour long sessions. For many LSOs, this will be the only interaction will be this training simulator.  The aim of his project was to develop and evaluate whether major training objectives for the 2H111 could be supported by other means. The result of LT Greunke’s study is a light-weight, portable VR trainer with a VR HMD as its display solution.  Using off-the-shelf technology, LT Greunke created a proof of concept, that has the potential to not only replace Device 2H111, but provide LSO’s the ability to train anywhere at any time, providing a more distributed, cost-effective, and more capable trainer.

It was great seeing many new faces and returnees to the event.  Thank you again to 32 North Brewing Company for hosting, to our Sharks, and to everyone that attended.  It’s was awesome to see the diversity of backgrounds at the event and watch the networking at work.  The driver of Athena is not just the ideas but getting those like minded individuals in the same room talking and Athena West 9.0 continued that tradition.  

We look forward to serving the Fleet to continue the US Military with it long running tradition of innovation!

 

LCDR Mark Blaszczyk is the Combat Systems Training Lead in Commander Littoral Combats Ship Squadron One and the co-lead for The Athena Project’s San Diego chapter.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a BS in Civil Engineering and Duke University with a Masters in Business Administration.

There are loads of Athena Events coming up! If you’re in the San Diego, Groton or Yokosuka areas, connect with us if you want to be a part of our upcoming events! Connect with us 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 athenanavy@gmail.com!