ATHENA at Sea

By CDR Michele Day

On April 14th, while transiting the South China Sea, USS RONALD REAGAN hosted the first ATHENA project event on an aircraft carrier. The audience, not knowing what to expect, was full of questions and brimming with excitement!

Flight Deck Roomba
LT David Levy

LT Levy’s idea leverages commercial technology to lessen the burden on the flight deck crew by programming a modified Roomba to clean the flight deck during non-flight operations maintenance periods. Many night after flight operations have concluded the aviation maintainers conduct maintenance on the flight deck, where the darkness can make it difficult to find small nuts and bolts when dropped. The Flight deck Roomba would drive a pre-programmed route to assist with clean-up after nighttime maintenance. As Foreign Object Debris (FOD) walk down impacts a large portion of the crew, there was a lot of interest, however LT Levy was adamant that the Flight Deck Roomba would not replace FOD walk down as nothing is as good as the mark-one-mod-zero eyeball for finding FOD. Much of the audience questioned the necessity and value of the flight deck Roomba if it would not replace FOD walk down.

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LT Greg Hahn answers questions during the Q&A portion of his pitch.

Custom Boot Insoles
LT Greg Hahn

“How many of you stand on a steel deck for more than 10 hours a day?” posed LT Hahn. Hands across the room shot up from tired and sweaty sailors. He then went on to describe a custom insole made from recycled materials that will not only provide cushion, but will increase cooling and circulation in work boots. LT Hahn stated he did not think the boot manufacturers contracted by the Navy would include custom insoles, but these could easily be purchased after market. During the Q&A session many questions were raised regarding how these insoles are different than insoles already on the market and if the Navy would provide money for purchase of such insoles.

LT Aaron Kakiel
Laser Pointer Alternative

Over the past 10 years we’ve seen the presentation standard move from a stick pointer to the laser pointer and the slide projector five way to the overhead projector and the LCD monitor. LT Kakiel’s idea is to replace the laser pointer with technology that exists in most family homes today by re-purposing the motion capture technology from gaming consoles. He explained two primary benefits; 1) The beam from laser pointers is often refracted when it hits the LCD screen, resulting in the laser beam shining into the audience members’ eyes. 2) The laser pointer presentation does not lend itself to collaboration. By utilizing motion capture technology, more team members can participate in the meetings. During the Q&A session the discussion centered on the need to modify the technology such that random movements (stretching, drinking water, etc) are not captured and displayed on screen.

PRT Spotcheck Program
AOAN Walter Johnson

AOAN Jackson’s pitch was simple and passionate. Far too many sailors prepare for the Physical Fitness Assessment a few weeks before the PFA and then neglect their fitness and diet until the next PFA cycle. By instituting random spot checks, all sailors would be forced to maintain a steady strain approach to working out and eating healthy. During the Q&A session an audience member stated the new PFA instruction had an allowance for commands to conduct spot PFA’s if a member appeared to be in danger of future failures. AOAN Jackson stated he had not read the new PFA instruction, but his idea was for an outside entity, such as ATG, to conduct the spot checks in order to avoid the potential for commands to refrain from spot checking their high performing sailors who were not in the best shape. This led to a lively back and forth exchange across the audience about the need for certain technical skill sets that were very sedentary in nature (e.g. Cyber defense/hacking) and the possibilities of having a portion of the workforce subject to a different set of physical requirements as sea-going sailors need a certain functional strength that sailors in potential land-locked ratings will not require.

Fixing CANES
IT2 Mason Lybrand

CANES onboard USS RONALD REAGAN is the bane of most sailors quality of life at sea. As our young sailors are digital natives, their reliance on the NIPRnet for social networking a top priority. Additionally, most UNCLAS technical manuals are not maintained onboard and many sailors rely on schoolhouse reach back and online distance support for technical trouble shooting. All of our travel and logistics websites reside on the NIPRnet as well. The design of CANES is flawed in that one server supports all inbound and outbound traffic, for the entire carrier. As a result the server is easily overloaded. The additional of an additional server rack would alleviate the load and greatly improve network performance.

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Admiral Sims Award Winner, GM2 Payge Shelton, gets the crowd excited about her pitch for the Hippocampus Stimulator!

Hippocampus Stimulator
GM2 Payge Shelton

***Admiral Sims Award Winner***

GM2 Paige’s pitch was inspired by her experience dealing with two subsets of sailors; 1) Sailors who are smart, but lack a work ethic and only joined the Navy long enough to get the GI Bill and get out, and 2) Sailors who really care about the Navy and work hard, but struggle to pass promotion tests. Her idea is by year 3 or 4, the hardworking, dedicated sailors, would be successfully weeded from the chaff. They could then voluntarily sign-up for Hippocampus Stimulation treatment – either via electrical shock or injection. GM2 Paige expertly explained the science behind Hippocampus stimulation and how the use of stimulation during the learning phase suggests that sailors would not require continuous stimulation to boost their memory, but only when they are trying to learn important information. She also noted that in the future this technology may lead the way to neuro-prosthetic devices that can be turned on and off during specific stages of information processing or daily tasks. This additional cognitive function will give hard working sailors the ability to achieve higher scores on advancement exams and promote ahead of the less motivated sailors. The excitement for this idea was palpable as many sailors in the room expressed frustration with pockets of sailors whose negativity brought everyone down, but was tolerated by leadership because of the individual sailors knowledge and skill. GM2 received the most votes for her idea was well researched and she explained in detail how this technology could be implemented in the Navy in the not too distant future. Her enthusiasm was contagious and by the end of the presentation we had sailors willing to line-up for Hippocampus stimulation now!

ATHENA Far East 4.0 will be later this fall. In the meantime, check out the C7F Innovation Pitchfest on Friday, August 18th, 1300-1600 in room 216 of the MWR building!

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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.

 

Introducing, ATHENA Far East!

By LTJG Tom Baker

beautiful-lake-of-japan

USS BENFOLD (DDG 65), the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, and a team of innovation veterans from fleet concentration areas across the United States have teamed up in Japan to establish ATHENA Far East, our first permanent ATHENA hub outside of the continental United States!

Rooting itself at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY), Japan, the opportunities to collaborate with Japanese and American sailors are tremendous.

The surface and submarine mariner of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces across Yokosuka Bay, an entrepreneurship professor from a local university, the talented civilian maintenance community, an aviation mechanic in Aircraft Carrier RONALD REAGAN…we will reach at every corner of civilian and military entrepreneurship to bring the same diverse conversation under one roof that has made every ATHENA so successful before us!

If you are in Japan, make plans now to join us on January 15th from 1245 – 1430 at the Commodore Matthew Perry General Mess “Tatami Room” on the Yokosuka Navy Base.

Any Military members or DoD Civilians interested in pitching ideas at this event can reach out on facebook or connect with us on the gmail account listed below!

Connect with Athena 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!

 

athenaTHINK – A Partnership With SPAWAR SSC PAC

By: Dr. Benjamin Migliori

design-thinking

In just a week, San Diego will be the home to the first ever athenaTHINK: A design thinking workshop in partnership with SPAWAR SSC PAC’s Grassroots S&T.

Last year, we hosted warfighters from the USS Benfold at SSC PAC to foster better innovation, more inspired projects, and a better interface between Sailors and Scientists.  Next week, we’ll be doing that again.  Our purpose is to give warfighters and technologists a chance to work together in a Design Thinking framework, and to open up the possibility of meaningful collaboration.

We’ll be giving Sailors an opportunity to see some of the bleeding edge work that we do here at SSCPAC, and giving the scientists a chance to hear real concerns from actual warfighters, rather than simply reading about them in briefs and training manuals.  We’ll be introducing the ideas of Design Thinking for military applications, and showing that the civilian entrepreneurs don’t get to have all the fun.  We’ll be competing for a best project award – which could turn into much more and be the seed for a new initiative.

Further, many of these ideas could be prime candidates to pitch at a Waterfront Athena event! And, with the next event coming to us in late February, this workshop is a great opportunity to hammer through some big ideas.

Why should we do this? Why does this matter?

Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II, seemed to think that neither technologists nor warfighters possessed the complete understanding necessary for effective R&D.

“…no scientist could hope to grasp fully the military phases of the problem.  This can be attained only as a result of a life spent in close association with the sea, with naval tradition, and with the responsibility of command.  Yet it is equally true that no naval officer can be expected to grasp fully the implications and trends of modern science and its applications.  This requires, equally forcefully, a lifetime spent in science, and in the personal utilization of the scientific method.”

If his premise is true, and we tend to think it has some merit, then one effective way to work around our weaknesses is to work together. Dr. James Colvard wrote about how the genesis of the Navy Labs was this idea of scientists working alongside warfighters.

“With the Manhattan Project as a model, which had General Groves in charge but working in a complementary relationship with Dr. Oppenheimer, they saw the need for a technical institution that would bring together both naval officers and scientists. Such an institution would combine, in a daily working relationship, the knowledge of the weapons needs of the Navy and the potential of science and technology to meet those needs.”

These aren’t simply words – last year’s learn warfighter needs workshop provided the spark that resulted in new avenues of research, and influenced our new virtual reality lab here at SSC PAC.  We’ll show you the pitch that led to that facility, let you see the results of the work, and then provide the creative space for you to put forth your own game-changing ideas.

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The team of Sailors and Scientists at last year’s Learn Warfighter Needs Workshop at SPAWAR SSC PAC.

By collaborating with The Athena Project,  we combine our collective technical expertise and our understanding of the Navy. Let’s work together to generate ideas that take advantage of our unique interactions.  We’ll provide the framework and the space – all you have to do is bring an open mind and an eye for strengthening the Navy.

So, if you’ve got an itch to make the Navy even better while strengthening the bond between Sailors and Scientists, sign up for the full-day Design Thinking workshop on January 28th here!

See you there!

Ben Migliori is a Ph.D. in Physics/Biophysics who used to shoot lasers at leeches (for science!) at the University of California, San Diego.  He is now a Navy researcher at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, where he studies data science, biologically-inspired systems, and the interface between technology and the warfighter. His goal is to use adjacent innovation to enable the Navy with game-changing technologies based on solutions found in nature.

Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com!