Athena DC 2.0 Roundup

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By AT1 Mike Pecota

Following last year’s inaugural Athena DC 1.0, the second event had much to live up to. In contrast to the previous year’s grand setting inside the Gaylord National Convention Center this year’s event took place in a much more traditional Athena setting: The Irish Whisper Pub right in the heart of National Harbor and it didn’t take long for the audience of Athenians to take over the entire space!

Both years’ events immediately followed the Sea Air Space convention held annually at the Gaylord, taking advantage of the senior Naval leadership the convention brings with it each year.

After winning last year’s event, I had the distinct honor of hosting this year’s event (and being the first Enlisted host of any Athena event). We kicked off with a brief introduction and welcome, we began to foster in a new generation of innovative thinkers!

In keeping up with the high standards set in DC 1.0, this years panel members were hand-chosen for their contribution to innovation leadership in the local area. Unlike any event before it, this year’s presenters and board members alike represented the best of innovation from both the Navy and Marine Corps. Board members included Joshua Smith, the director of TANG at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab; Monica Hutchins, a leader within the Strategy and Innovation office at the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy (Management); and Captain James Lamontie of the Marine Corps’ Installation and Logistics (I&L) office and the NexLog Innovation Cell.

 The years of experience in grassroots innovation these panelists brought to the table made for some impactful insights into our presenters’ pitches!

And without further ado, let’s get to the ideas!

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Sims Winner Jerin Raby, and the host (and his 3D Printed bowtie).

AM2 Jerin Raby – Fleet Readiness Center Mid Atlantic, Detachment Patuxent River

*** Athena DC 2.0 Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage ***

Jerin presented her idea, which comes right from the “why aren’t we already doing this” file, with the clarity and expertise of an experienced Sailor well versed in the difficulties facing all aviation maintenance. Her proposal – to replace the oversized metallic toolboxes, used throughout Naval flight line maintenance, with lighter custom made backpacks – clearly struck the heartstrings of the crowd. As she reflected on her past experiences with the cumbersome toolboxes, you could see the expressions of many in the room as they recanted their own trials and difficulties using the outdated boxes.

The main focus of Jerin’s proposal was to help eliminate back problems and related injuries associated with lugging the tool boxes across flightiness and up and down ships’ ladderways. She explained the safety concerns and dangers the boxes pose to others as one makes their way through dark hallways. A secondary focus of her proposal was the benefits sailors having the use of both hands on the flight line and while traversing ships. Any maintainer could now have the use of both hands to keep them on their feet while traveling around the ship.

HM2 Joshua Cranford – Naval Hospital Annapolis

Joshua returned to the ATHENA DC, making him the only presenter to pitch ideas at both settings. As a reflection of his idea last year to increase mission readiness and cost savings by switching duty vehicles over to hydrogen power, this year he proposed taking the eco friendly hydrogen power and introducing it to the world of submariners. The extreme dedication to his mission, of a Navy powered by hydrogen power, shone as he walked the crowd through the pro’s and cons of having this alternative fuel powering the vessels of tomorrow.

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One of the crowd voters, and his soon-to-be-scored presentation grading sheet.

AE3 Jordan Brady – Fleet Readiness Center Mid Atlantic, Detachment Washington

Jordan knew after witnessing ATHENA DC 1.0 first hand, that he was going to bring an idea in 2017. His concept was  to use high powered lasers to aid sailors in the tedious task of corrosion removal. With corrosion being the number one enemy of any metal floating in the middle of the ocean, his idea spoke to both the surface and aviation members of the audience. Many of whom have undoubtedly spent many painstaking hours with needle guns and wire brushes keeping their vessels in the fight whether on the sea or in the air.

SSgt Alex Long – Ammunition Logistics Focus Team

Alex was the first Marine ever to bring an idea to an Athena event! His time working with munitions and weapons lead him to the startling discovery that humans are flawed. One individual manning a armory can hold up the operations of an entire unit. Alex’s solution was to automate the system through the use of robotics and digital accountability. His idea is not new to the logistics, but hasn’t found it’s rightful place in the world of weaponry in the Marine Corps, according to Alex.

AOAN Marissa Cross – Fleet Readiness Center Mid Atlantic, Detachment Patuxent River

Marissa finished the evening with a lifesaving bit of innovation. Her take on shipboard safety assisted any personal facing catastrophic conditions while potentially trapped within a ship. The problem: during true crisis at sea, vision is usually impaired making the glow-in-the-dark stickers (telling one their location in the ship) virtually unusable. Her solution: place 3D printed arrows throughout the ship directing sailors to the nearest point of exit. This allowed anyone who may find themselves visually impaired to tactually find their way to safety regardless of visibility.

In reflection, the authenticity of the evening’s setting combined with the passion of the presenters made for a night of true innovation. The ideas exchanged and connections made instilled an exhilarating air of electricity much needed in todays ever evolving military. The integration of two branches with the common goal of mission readiness will help set the pace for all future endeavors both here in the great United State of America, and abroad to wherever the mission may take us next.

AT1 Mike Pecota is an Aviation Electronics Technician /Assistant Innovation Team Lead for Fleet Readiness Center Mid Atlantic, Detachment Patuxent River. He’s also a driving force on the Additive Manufacturing Team and Innovation Cell at NAVAIR and the Admiral Sims Award winner from Athena DC 1.0.

Athena Northwest 4.0 Preview

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The Athena Project NW will be holding their semi-annual pitch competition event at the LCPO Mess on base at Naval Base Kitsap on the 20th of January open to all (all active duty, DOD employees and retirees alike).

The Athena Project is an all-volunteer, grassroots organization seeking to foster and promote innovation within the Navy and DoD for the benefit of our sailors, dependents and nation as a whole. No idea is too big or small!

The event will be comprised of a guest speakers and focus on a pitch competition (in the format similar to ‘Shark Tank’ meets ‘TED Talk’ venue) where the ideas will be voiced and a winner will be selected base on feasibility, quality, novelty and actionability.

Come join us for a fun, energizing and exciting event where your ideas can be heard!

The pitch competition is open to the entire region. If you have an innovative idea you would like to present, please contact LT Daniel Conley at navyathenanw@gmail.com to submit your idea. Please submit pitches by the 13th of January to ensure inclusion. Free drinks will be provided for pitch presenters!

Location: Chief’s Mess (Below Sam Adams) at Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, WA

Time: 1330-1500

Attire: Business casual

Register to Attend:  http://athenanws.eventbrite.com

Admission is free and open to anyone and everyone!

POC:     LT Daniel Conley

512-981-7399

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 Southeast 2.0 Roundup

By: LT Lindsey Beates and LCDR Tim Bierbach

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The Athena Project returned to the Southeast region with quite a lot of energy! NAS Jacksonville, NS Mayport, and NS King’s Bay all rallied to support local grassroots innovation within the Navy and their communities at large. Athena Southeast 2.0 quickly hit targeted presentations of five, within two days after placing a call out for innovative projects. In all, five presenters and four other projects were accepted for this event. The event was held on August 5, at Veterans United Brewery, a veteran-owned company in the Southside of Jacksonville.

Presenters captivated the crowd with their creative concepts and ideas, making their pitches to fellow Sailors, industry, and academia, as well as a panel of leaders in the Southeast region. The panelists were CAPT Anthony Corapi, Commodore of Patrol & Reconnaissance Wing 11, CDR James Harney, CO of Afloat Training Group Mayport, LCDR Mike Zdunkeiwiz, Training Officer for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) and Chief Collins, LCPO at the MPRWS Mobile Tactical Operations Center.

Each of the projects challenged existing paradigms in a progressive fashion, and the panelists did an exceptional job directing their questions toward challenging the weak portions of the projects while bolstering their strengths. Every question provided insight from experience and helped the presenters continue to mature their pitch and project.

In no particular order, our presenters were:

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PO2 Kuhns, presenting Media Management Database

(Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage – Athena Southeast 2.0)

The Media Management Database is designed to increase efficiency and quality control of the media sets required for the P-8A aircraft and media issues are currently plaguing the community, causing late departures, excessive preflight, and canceled events.   The relationship between the squadrons and the Mobile Tactical Operations Centers (MTOCs) continued to be stressed while senior leadership develops a viable solution. Furthermore, combat aircrews began flying with limited standard media loads that reduce the US Navy’s overall combat capability.

PO2 Kuhns worked with VP-16 to develop a database centered on supply management and lean six sigma principals, and programed using Microsoft Access. The concept simply tracks the each piece of media, associated burning step, and location from start to storage in a near real time application. Everyone with the rights to the database now had the ability to track the applicable stages and location of the media.

This database was employed by MTOC One and VP16 as a pilot project during their inter-deployment readiness cycle and last deployment. The success was recognized immediately and media related issues were reduced, enabling MTOC One to create a more agile and adaptive process meeting the needs of the fleet. The database has the potential to be developed concurrently with SPAWAR and implemented throughout Wing 11 to increase the quality control of Media and effectiveness of the fleet. PO2 Kuhns, is stationed at Mobile Tactical Operations Center (MTOC) One at NAS Jacksonville.

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PO1 Laramie Foster, presenting Test Item Analysis

Test Item Analysis is program that has taken one of the Navy’s most vital challenges – its ability to conduct self-assessments. Training, one of the Navy’s core missions, is continuously improving the measures of performance (MOP) and measures of effectiveness (MOE) that build our warfighters. The current problem for the majority of the Navy is that we are still developing and testing based on a perceptual concept and not a systematic process. Test Item Analysis empowers the average sailor and improves our for Navy Instructional system design environments.

PO1 Foster’s program uses a visual basic to generate pre-populated templates to reduce the manual effort and increase the ease of use.  The Trident Training Center uses a beta version of the program and continues to undergo a continuous improvement cycle to deliver the training desire. Using a static version during several formal courses yielded extensive improvement on time required for testing the desired outcomes and reduced to time required to achieve the desired action. This program is not just for short-term analytics but it can develop long-term history base on outcomes and desired end states.

The test item analysis is looking to begin collaboration with other unit to expand its base and sample size. Several Commands at Athena expressed interest in building pilot programs to assess the potential outcomes. PO1 Foster designed the program to be maintained at a local level and is excited to collaborate with the Fleet in the near future. PO1 Foster is stationed at the Trident Training Facility NSB Kings Bay.

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LT Braz Kennedy, presenting iLOC

iLOC is a project that focuses on increasing the accuracy and timeliness of tactic, techniques and procedures (TTP) during the anti-submarine warfare (ASW). For decades, TTPs have accepted numerous errors based on the human limitation and the variables calculated. With the introduction of the P-8A and its combat system, we now have the ability to conduct rapid calculation based on amplified information to increase our warfighting effectiveness.

The Project looks to conduct incremental changes. The First stage would be achieved by developing a basic excel style application that would codify the current math and science portions of our TTPs. This spread sheet would utilize the computer as a calculator for the basic equations and while enabling the crew to alter the variables to keep pace with current tactical situation. The 2nd Stage would be to imbed this capability into the P-8A combat systems, similar to Boeing’s Flight management computer.

Currently the spreadsheet continues to be developed and reviewed by multiple Maritime Weapons and Tactics Instructors. The application has also been forwarded to the Center for Naval Analysis to begin validation. This project is a progression for Cold War system that was designed to be implemented into the P-7 program before it was canceled. LT Kennedy is stationed at VP-30 in NAS Jacksonville.

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LT Doug Kettler, presenting High Velocity Learning within Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force

High Velocity Learning (HVL) within Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) looked at how to begin implementation of the CNO’s vision of HVL at every level. The project defined and dismantled the Toyota Production System (TPS) to build an initial framework to deviate.  It also drew a correlation between the history of the scientific method and the application in today’s innovative culture. This Framework is vital to cultivating an agile and adaptive process throughout the MPRF at large.

Doug’s project illustrated the progression from the Aviation Tactics and Techniques Innovation Cell (ATTIC) he helped stand up at VP-16. During his tour, he designed, developed, implemented and wrote on several innovative projects that applied HVL successfully. One of his examples was a project to reduce the P-8 preflight for ASW events from 3 hours to 1.5 hours. The command targeted several key performance indicators that related to delays, analyzed the information, and put controls in place. The Project was able swarm the problem and use ideology from TPS to develop the solutions. Within one day and the 6 flights dedicated to this portion of the project they were able to achieve their goal of reducing preflight time by 50 percent and saving in excess of 135 man-hours across the 6 project events. This data was then captured and published to complete the HVL process.

Doug continues mature his framework for HVL within MPRF. Many of his projects that he worked on during his tour at V16’s ATTIC have now been published as tactics, techniques, and procedures that have been adopted throughout the fleet. LT Kettler is stationed at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) in NAS Jacksonville.

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LT Josh Mitchell, presenting EMW4ASW

EMW 4 ASW (Electronic Maneuver Warfare for Anti-Submarine Warfare) was a CNO Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) accepted project before the group was defunded. This project targets a latent vulnerability from the Cold War ASW strategy. Sonobuoys use legacy technology that operates on one of 99 channels with in a small frequency range. This constraint also limits the data rate and amount of data transferred. Sonobuoys still possess enormous potential and the fix is not difficult. Incorporating photonic into the current sonobuoys increases their combat potential in the 21st Century sensor.

LT Mitchell project looks to open the aperture by building an agile system and incorporating photonic into current sonobuoys.   For minimal cost, photonic will expand sonobuoys frequency spectrum exponentially and enable them to become frequency agile. Spectrum management would now be constrained via software updated and not hardware changes. Many secondary benefits would materialize from this upgrade. Data rates, bandwidth, and encryption are just a few of the potential areas for improvement. LT Mitchell, the MPRWS, and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have been collaborating on this project for over two years to turn EMW 4 ASW into a reality, which would be a game changer for ASW.

The project continues to look for a champion and funding to build an initial prototype. PMA-264, ASW projects, has now taken an interest in the idea but due to funding cuts the project is still in idle. GTRI estimated that the project would take less than nine months for an initial test of the concept and could support the development in the near future. LT Mitchel is stationed at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School in NAS Jacksonville.

Overall, it was a very successful evening. All of the presenters gave practical, innovative solutions to current issues facing our Navy – either at the work center, squadron, or fleet level – and the audience members learned a lot. We are looking forward to Athena South East 3.0, to be held sometime this winter!

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/

 

 

Introducing, ATHENA Far East!

By LTJG Tom Baker

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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!

 

Athena South East 1.0 Is Tomorrow!

By: LT Kristen Wheeler

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Buckle up, Jacksonville! Tomorrow our innovative community joins the Athena Family!

The Athena Project is hosting its first ever South East event at 5:30 on October 29th at CoLabJax on the Jacksonville waterfront. Six innovative Sailors will pitch their ideas to the collected crowd and to a panel of special-guest Sharks from the civilian and military communities at an event free to all in the Jacksonville area!

Teamed up with the game changers at CoLabJax, a maker space, and also The Bunker, an incubator for military entrepreneurs, the Sailors will present their creative concepts to make the Navy better at an event that would inspire a tip of the hat from Nikola Tesla. And Tesla would probably be impressed with the prizes too!

This event has been months in the making. From July until September, Sailors used the Secretary of the Navy’s online idea collaboration space, “The Hatch,” to craft their creative concepts. And, with the assistance from Major Armando Martinez, from SECNAV’s Innovation and Strategy team, USS IWO JIMA conducted an exclusive competition wherein participating Sailors were awarded Special Liberty for accruing the most points and also for the best ideas. Select Sailors were then invited to pitch their idea at Athena South East 1.0.

In preparation for the big event, CoLabJax hosted a practice session yesterday, where the participants learned the art of the elevator pitch from CoLabJax co-founder and entrepreneur expert, Jason Salvagni.

There are still some spots available if you’re in the area and interested in coming to the event to collaborate with other innovators or to watch some of the great ideas, give feedback and vote for Jacksonville’s first Admiral Sims Award winner! You can register here – nice but not mandatory. If you want to just come on by, do it!

Come be a part of The Athena Project's Jacksonville team at the first ever Athena South East!

Come be a part of The Athena Project’s Jacksonville team at the first ever Athena South East!

Leaning on lessons learned from Athena Project founder, Dave Nobles, and Athena’s Fleet Lead, LCDR Drew Barker, the event on the 29th promises to be interesting and interactive in a unique space where Sailors and civilians can ideate, collaborate, and take a leap together into the future.

LT Kristen Wheeler is the former Combat Systems Officer onboard USS IWO JIMA. She’s currently transitioning between duty stations on her way to become a part of the Naval Innovation Advisory Council in San Francisco, California.

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!

Resurrection: A Story About Not Giving Up

By: LTJG Rob McClenning

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When I won the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage at Athena 2 with the idea of developing Environmental Acoustic Recognition System (EARS), I can confidently say I was the most surprised person there.

In my mind, EARS was at best a mediocre idea, at worst it was blatant stealing from the Army. While history is full great innovators with “Eureka!” moments, EARS was born out of frustration and fear. Being on the bridge of a billion dollar warship with fog so thick you cannot see the bow, and your best bet to avoid collision is a Deck Seaman who is vaguely familiar with sound signals.

It’s enough to make even the youngest Ensign start sprouting gray hairs.

The basic concept of EARS is to take Army counter sniper technology and place it on warships to detect sound signals in low visibility environments as well as detect engines of small craft that are too small to be picked up on radar and that may not be visible to the bridge watchstanders. The Navy’s current remedy to low visibility is to open the bridge wing doors and place Deck Seamen and Supply Department Sailors topside to relay the sounds they hear to the bridge. Basically it’s like driving blind down a highway, while your friend sticks their head out the window to listen for the cars.

Most of the research for my initial EARS pitch was based off of the Army’s Boomerang project. Boomerang is an array of 8 microphones placed on the back of a humvee. When the humvee takes incoming fire, the Boomerang system uses the differentiating pressure waves on each microphone and projects the direction and estimated range of the shooter. This is information is then displayed inside to the driver.

The Army's Boomerang system.

The Army’s Boomerang system.

With some simple reprogramming of the sounds being detected, I believe Boomerang could easily be installed on ships as a boon to the bridge watchstanders. After my less than spectacular victory speech I was approached by several engineers from the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies to discuss various ways to do a proof of concept and possible prototype. We were all very excited to get to work right away and really make a difference.

After two months of emailing back and forth, Dave Nobles and myself received the beginnings of EARS. USC had successfully completed proof of concept with two Xbox Kinects and a cell phone. The bad news was they did not have the funding to continue any further development. Undaunted with the set back I pressed on, surely there was someone willing to back an Athena winner?

I decided to email the makers of the Boomerang system directly. There was no better choice than the people who actually made the equipment that EARS was based on, plus if it worked, they could make a profit by selling it to the Navy. However, Raytheon did not respond to my first email, or my second, or even my third. At this point, a year had passed since EARS had won Athena 2. Despite my best efforts and some mild interest, it seemed as if EARS was dead.

EARS was running out of options and it looked like it was going to die on the vine.

EARS was running out of options and it looked like it was going to die on the vine.

Another year passed with no hope of EARS being developed. I had transferred from BENFOLD and was working at COMNAVSURFPAC as the NFAAS coordinator. One day out of the blue I received an email from Bill Hughes, who served as the Navigator on BENFOLD. Now working at the Pentagon, Bill said he saw a presentation that I might be interested in.

Opening the attachment, I read through brief from the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), on a system called FireFly. FireFly is essentially the Army’s own version of Boomerang, but better. ARMDEC added a camera as well as made the whole platform much more mobile. I decided to reach out to the Army PAO listed and see if AMRDEC had any interest in converting their equipment to maritime use.

After a few weeks of no response, I finally received an email from Dr. Tim Edwards, who works as the Chief Scientist for the FireFly project. Not only were they interested, but they had been actively seeking ways to break into the maritime community. We quickly setup a phone conference to get a feel what were working with. I was stunned by the amount of enthusiasm that Dr. Edwards and his team brought to the table. Dr. Edwards was able to allocate additional funding towards developing FireFly specifically for shipboard use, and he even offered to send a FireFly to me. Being a LTJG with no ship I had to unfortunately decline.

We continued to bounce ideas back and forth and since then we have reached out to several scientists at SPAWAR. Now we are attempting to coordinate with the Chief Science Advisor at COMNAVSURFPAC to find a test platform for FireFly. Meanwhile Dr. Edwards and his team are continuing to test FireFly with various small boat engines, and so far the results are promising.

While some ideas will naturally gain greater interest, it’s important as an innovator to keep pressing forward. Even if you win, the hard work is just starting. As painful a lesson as it is, in the Navy we know getting a new piece of equipment takes time. Even though Athena is taking great strides to speed up the process, it still takes time, sometimes months, and sometimes years. But any change that is truly worth while is worth the effort.

So EARS isn’t dead, not by a long shot, it just changed its name.

LTJG Rob McClenning is the Prospective Training Officer onboard the guided missile destroyer USS GRIDLEY, homeported out of San Diego, California. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri.

Athena East 2.0 is right around the corner, October 2nd in Norfolk! 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!