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!

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Waterfront Athena 8 Roundup

By LCDR Mark Blaszczyk and LTJG Tom Baker

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Last week, we hosted our eighth Waterfront Athena Event at Societe Brewing Company Tasting Room in San Diego’s Mira Mesa. We had our best turnout yet for another incredible presentation of talent from ten of our fleet Sailors and military civilians. Nearly 100 innovators from Southern California and beyond packed the small brewery on Friday, August 28th, ready to hear some powerful ideas, directly from the deckplates.

It was great to see a diverse community of thinkers from the fleet, with four separate communities within the Navy represented, not to mention our friends from the Marine Corps that drove in from Miramar. We were thrilled to see not only our old friends, including the team from SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, but to have new Athenians join our growing network. Representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command’s NSWC Corona division, Naval Air Systems Command and the City of San Diego Mayor’s Office were in attendance, along with many entrepreneurs, designers and technical experts from the San Diego region. It’s always incredibly humbling to stand shoulder to shoulder with so many enthusiastic Athenians and this event was no exception.

To start things off we had a previous presenter, STG1 Butcher, talk about the development of his “Air Squeegee” idea that he presented at Waterfront Athena Seven. His concept, as well as fellow Athena Seven presenter BMSR Dorsey’s Rustbuster, were showcased by a team of SPAWAR engineers showing the 3D rendering of the ideas. It was powerful to see the progress these Sailors have been able to achieve in such a short period of time.

STG1 Butcher kicks off our event by showcasing the development with his Air Squeegee concept

STG1 Butcher kicks off our event by showcasing the development with his Air Squeegee concept

This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen previous presenters giving updates at the onset of our event, but it was the first time we’ve had a prize for our Admiral Sims Award Winner! Our friends at San Diego’s MakerPlace were generous to donate a month-long membership and a free instructional class at their facility to the winner. At The Athena Project, we firmly believe that personal development education is a powerful prize to offer at these events and we’re looking forward to partnering up with more organizations in our various regions in the future to deliver excellent experiential prizes to our presenters!

LTJG Tom Baker presents the future for BMSR Dorsey's Rustbuster.

LTJG Tom Baker presents the future for BMSR Dorsey’s Rustbuster.

And, without further delay, let’s hear about those presenters from Athena Eight:

*** The Waterfront Athena Eight Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

 “FUSED and OTTER” – LCDR Korban Blackburn & Brandon Naylor, Naval Postgraduate School 

Coming down from Monterey, CA to present their idea, this team presented a concept  to not just save the fleet fuel but to help the Navy better understand its fuel consumption. The Fuel Usage Study Extended Demonstration (FUSED) is an Excel/VBA program to model the fuel consumption of the surface fleet and analyze the effects of different policy changes such as single generator operations on CGs and DDGs or allowing different amounts of time to complete transits. It is currently being used in two NPS research projects relating to transit speed recommendations to carrier strike groups and removing the four hour PIM window constraint, but is capable of much more and needs a way to gain traction among key decision makers. One of the best parts of his idea is it is ready for fleet use, so look for it at command near you in the near future.

The second concept by the NPS team was OTTER (Optimized Transit Tool Easy Reference) – the transit planning tool designed to help ships use their fuel more efficiently in order to allow more time on station. OTTER has two distinct tools for planning transits: The first provides a simple overview of how long to spend at what speeds for a given transit, while the second is a short-term planning tool that accounts for different starting positions of ships in the group and scheduled drills and produces a schedule of when each ship should travel at the suggested speeds in order to keep the group (more or less) together and within the PIM window. Both tools show approximately how much fuel is saved by following the suggested schedule

For the first time, we had our winners come from further than San Diego, which made their ability to exercise the donation from MakerPlace difficult. Graciously, the pair transferred their prize to the second place finisher, IT1 Anthony Freshour from USS MAKIN ISLAND. A class act by the team from Monterey!

“MWR Network At Sea” – IT1 Anthony Freshour, USS MAKIN ISLAND

IT1 Freshour, frustrated by slowed bandwidth and “internet hours” onboard ships at sea, proposed a fresh way to circumvent the current systems to provide Sailors with a better service. His idea is an MWR network for Sailors separate from the ship’s network to alleviate normal work traffic and allow Sailors better quality of life. This network be installed ahead of shipboard networks onboard a ship, and would allow Sailors to access social media websites and other public websites. In addition, Sailors could use this to pursue advanced educational opportunities via online courses. By segregating this traffic, the normal NIPRnet traffic could be used for official business and/or dedicate more bandwidth towards other networks.

IT1 had some command support backing up his idea, with USS MAKIN ISLAND’s Commanding Officer, CAPT Jon Rodgers, and CSIO, LCDR Bobby Griffith, helping out during the Question and Answer session. With such a supportive command, we look forward to seeing a lot of movement from IT1 as he works toward his idea!

“RHIB Welldeck on LCS 1 variants” – ET1 Jason Luke, LCS Crew 101

Watching RHIBs being loaded on LCS 1 variants and thinking about a better way, ET1 Luke thought maybe there could be a solution resting dormant in some of the Navy’s current operations.

ET1 Luke proposed that instead of a ramp area at the stern of the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ships, a well deck would relieve some of the flooding concerns. In addition, this redesign would expedite onloads and offloads of critical components and provide relief for all LCS variants’ manning concerns. Man hours would be reduced and safety increased, which would lighten the load for such a small crew. There would be some challenge in the implementation of this idea as it would require significant modifications to the current hulls and redesign of future hulls. Despite the challenge, ET1 Luke is optimistic that this is a viable option for LCS platforms.

“Voice Translator” – DC2 Horace Campbell, USS BENFOLD

Have you ever been in a foreign country and wished that the vendor you were speaking to had subtitles that you could read, to communicate more easily? When this idea struck DC2 Campbell, he was compelled to provide a military application. His immediate concept customers were our Special Forces and VBSS teams. This technology could help them to instantly translate foreign language conversations, delivering precious moments of advanced warning.

Imagine a hearing device in your ear that has a microchip built within. This connects wirelessly to a transceiver box the size of a canteen pouch carried on the user which transmits language data to the hearing device. This box is what receives spoken language from an outside entity, translates into the desired language, and transmits the translation to the user’s earpiece.

DC2 Campbell described how implementation of this device would not only reduce safety risks, but act as a stepping stone for building foreign relations. He even delivered the audience a imagine of the near future within the reach of national consumers where we can incorporate this technology with mobile phones!

“Military Ride” – MN1 Antawan Hinton, COMLCSRON ONE

Thinking of his junior sailors, MN1 Hinton presented an idea reminiscent of other ride sharing such as Uber and Lyft. Looking at all the travel he does between bases in the completion of his duties, MN1 Hinton envisioned a ride sharing service similar to Uber in which service members or their family can share rides between facilities like Naval Medical Center San Diego at Balboa and 32nd Street Naval Base. This would help to alleviate parking issues at many of these facilities and reduce fuel consumption while at the same time helpful to those sailors and families without vehicles. Making this as a phone application would also help sailors after a night out on the town find a ride back to base, helping to reduce DUI violations among service members.

“Efficiency of use of Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center” – EODC Dave Bernhardt, EOD Training & Evaluation Unit ONE

In a thought provoking presentation, EODC Bernhardt proposed an idea to close/lease Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center similar to Liberty Station in San Diego. With a specific focus on his unit, he discussed the lack of a single tenant command on base and how the units assigned can complete their missions more effectively (and at lower cost) elsewhere. Using charts and stickies, EODC talked through the time and cost inefficiencies imposed on his unit to complete his mission. For nearly all of his training they require travel from 1-2 hours to as long as 20+ hours north to complete training. Numerous contractors are required in excess of millions of dollars for training that can be completed at other locals using military assets. His proposal also discussed the money the Navy could potential gain by leasing the land to the city of San Diego, as it is prime downtown waterfront real estate and would surely be attractive to a number of developers.

EODC Bernhardt uses some old school maps to describe his new school concept.

EODC Bernhardt uses some old school maps to describe his new school concept.

For the burdensome logistical issues involved with many of his unit’s training missions, EODC Bernhardt proposed that his command be relocated to the nearby Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton, California. He asserted that all of the challenges associated with travel time and logistical constraints could be solved because the facilities required for his unit’s training are all located on the installation. We’ll file this idea in the “This Makes Too Much Sense” department.

“Maps” – Tracy Oldnettle, COMLSCRON ONE

Frustrated with the current manning systems used by his department within LCSRON ONE, Tracy looking at how Google Maps maps a route made him realized it really is no different than what he does now. Using a sailor’s qualifications, schedules, certifications, NEC, schools, etc. he develops a “map” to get the sailor to his billet at a specified time but it is a struggle. Currently we use several different systems, multiple excel spreadsheets, ASM, FLTMPS, share point, detailers, etc., that rely on numerous manual inputs from numerous human interfaces to find sailors then get them into a training program then hopefully get them to their crew at the right time. These numerous systems and personnel operate independently and have numerous sources of inputs leaving lots of room for error. In the LCS world, one NEC, class, or PQS could cause a ship to fail a certification.

In his vision of this system, it would use data already accessible via ASM, FLTMPS, eNTRS, and others to identify sailors that would be a good fit for LCS and develop a training “map” to get the right sailor to right crew at the right time. He believes an algorithm with a better interface would save time, training, and reduce cost giving senior commanders and crews a clearer picture of manning.

Oldnettle said that since LCS is already a large command and is only going to get bigger.   LCSRON 2 is standing up and soon we will be adding the LCS Frigate. We will be all over the globe (San Diego, Mayport, Wisconsin, Alabama, Singapore, Bahrain)  which would make creating a system now that is specific to the billet, crew, and ship an amazing time saver.

“Active Sonic Camouflage” – LTJG Chuck Fischer, Destroyer Squadron Two Three

LTJG Fischer’s concept to protect ships from being detected by submarines is an adaptation of technology you’re more likely to find in a Best Buy than a Naval Base.  His basic premise it is to surround the hull of a ship or submarine with noise-cancelling tiles to protect against passive sonar.

He proposed that the tiles could function similarly to noise canceling headphones and have an inner layer of microphones to listen for the internal sounds produced by the ship and have an outer layer of speakers to generate an inverse sound wave to cancel those sounds out. Performance could be improved by having multiple layers of tiles.

Fischer said that a system to try to counter active sonar could be attempted by incorporating a series of whiskers with microphones embedded in them around the hull to hear an active sonar sound wave before it makes contact with the rest of the hull in time for hull mounted speakers to emit an inverse wave to cancel out the active sonar ping before it hits the ship, though there are significant challenges to implementation of this concept, he admitted.

This concept is similar to an idea from Waterfront Athena Three but was described to counter active sonar only. While the road ahead for implementation of such an ambitious idea is long, Fischer seemed up to the challenge.

A fantastic turnout for our Eighth Waterfront Athena in San Diego.

A fantastic turnout for our Eighth Waterfront Athena in San Diego.

“Reforming DRRS-N” – LT Lloyd Patterson, VFA-94, Training

In the first pitch from the Aviation community at our San Diego events, LT Lloyd Patterson came from Lemoore to pitch an idea to reform the Navy’s accountability systems.

LT Patterson said that The Defense Readiness Reporting System does not accurately reflect Naval Aviation readiness because the binary nature of CBR “tasks” gives squadrons the same credit for attempting a particular task, and failing, as it does not attempting a task altogether. As a result, many squadrons and individuals disregard DRRS-N prerequisites or performance thresholds, and log the task as complete anyways.  This filters up as an inflated sense of readiness, when only nominal training exists.

His proposal is to overhaul how the Navy reports readiness.  Periodicity, tasks, experience– they’re all signals for what we’re really trying to measure: performance.  If a unit is ready for a  particular mission, then the expectation is that a certain performance threshold should follow.

“Instead of tracking tasks, let’s directly measure performance,” Patterson said. “Fortunately, TOPGUN and our debriefing process makes capturing those metrics simple. And our culture is designed to default to reporting failure, unless convinced of success.”

He proposed that capturing raw performance would have powerful implications on the Navy, potentially providing significant savings. Conducting events with little to no real performance increase are less valuable than those events with tangible increases.  Some tasks and missions may complement one another, and therefore do not require explicit training.  A performance-based system could identify the most efficient pathway between a dollar spent (flight hour) and performance increases. It could also measure the consequences of not flying, or reduced funding, for significant periods of times.  It could make predictions on how a particular air wing can expect to perform given a specific O-Plan.

LT Patterson said that he would need to overhaul DRRS-N and SHARP and collect vast amounts of performance data, employing statisticians, programmers and aviators to find correlations. Though his idea will cost money in the short term, he proposed that money could be saved by more efficient training and could be offset by knowing the truth: how is Naval Aviation actually performing?

“Anti-slack device” – LT Edward Boyston, LCS Crew 206

Reminiscent of an idea presented by STG2 Coronado during Waterfront Athena 7, LT Boyston presented an idea to address the issues of manning a phone and distance line for a Littoral Combat Ship. Underway replenishments (UNREP) for any ship is challenging event requiring all hands and this is only amplified by a crew with less than 60 personnel. The receiving ship would receive the P&D line and attach it to their ship. Using systems that already exist; a tensioned reel system would keep tension on the line while allowing it to pay in and out as necessary maintaining the tension. This would relieve the requirement of manning the line through an UNREP. This reduces stress on the crew decreasing the chance of a mistake in what is currently a rather dangerous evolution.

With so many great concepts, surely the coming months will see multiple ideas, not just the event winners’, explored and implemented to make the Navy better.

As the torch passes in San Diego, with USS BENFOLD homeport shifting to Japan, the future is as bright as the sun in Southern California for this regional chapter of The Athena Project to continue it’s tremendous growth. We received many late submissions of ideas that will make for great pitches at Waterfront Athena Nine this Fall.

And, if you’re in Norfolk, Japan or Mayport stay tuned: We’ll have some excellent innovation events coming your way soon! If you want to get involved, as always, message us!

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.

LTJG Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant onboard the Ballistic Missile Defense Guided Missile Destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is a graduate of Oregon State University in Entrepreneurship.

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!

Project Pulse: Air Squeegee

By LCDR Mark Blaszczyk

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With less than a week until Waterfront Athena 8, we’re showcasing some of the success stories from our previous events. Here is some background and an update on one of the ideas presented at Athena 7, the Air Squeegee by STG1 Michael Butcher, COMLCSRON ONE.

The design process for his concept started when he was a junior sailor, being one of the people that had to perform the sometimes dangerous activity of drying the towed array sonar. Like many of our Athenians, he always thought that there had to be a better and safer way to do it.

His idea for an air drying system didn’t come about until he was at COMLCSRON ONE, when the ASW package was being installed on the Littoral Combat Ship. In the process, there was a question about how to get the drogue out of the extra-long fairlead that the ship was fitted with.  STG1 suggested that an angled air jet be used to blow the line through the fairlead, and it’s from that idea that his Air Squeegee pitch was born.  If there were three jets, then full coverage could be achieved and the array could be dried off without the need to hand wipe it.

About a year later he learned about The Athena Project and figured it would be a good opportunity to pursue his dream of never having to wipe down an array again. He presented his prototype at Athena 7 and though he didn’t win the Admiral Sims award,  his idea received considerable attention.

STG1 Butcher's first prototype of the Air Squeegee, presented at Athena 7.

STG1 Butcher’s first prototype of the Air Squeegee, presented at Athena 7.

After his presentation he spoke with a few other sailors about his idea and incorporated their concerns into a “MK2” design. One of the key flaws with the MK1 was that the protruding jets could snag on the array and cause an unsafe condition. To alleviate this problem he incorporated nylon hardware in the concept creating a kind of tear away point in case of malfunction.

Recently, STG1 Butcher talked through and explained the problem and his proposed solution to Susie Alderson and her team of Scientists from Commander, Naval Surface Forces SES, granting specific funding for further research and prototypes, onboard USS BENFOLD.  While onboard he worked with Pete Schmitz of Intel Corporation to 3D map the space and during a follow-up meeting at SPAWAR, STG1 worked with modelers to generate a 3D rendering.

Soon, the team expects to 3D print his idea and start testing his MK2 design.  In a parallel effort, STG1 Butcher has been working with the folks at PEO IWS 5 and NUWC to determine feasibility.

So, what started as a simple idea born out of frustration has blossomed into a concept with real legs and momentum. To share the story of how far the idea has come, STG1 will be kicking off Waterfront Athena 8 this Friday (hopefully with his MK2 design in tow).

This is a great example of the Navy innovative spirit and the great potential your ideas have at an Athena waterfront event – I look forward to seeing your ideas at the next Athena event.

If you’re in the San Diego area and want to present your idea, send us a message! And, more importantly, come out to Societe Brewing on August 28th for Athena 8!

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.

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!

Project Pulse: The Rustbuster

By: LTJG Tom Baker

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BMSN Robert Dorsey explains his innovations for the next generation needle gun.

What an incredible update for one of our Waterfront ATHENA 7 innovators!

BMSN Robert Dorsey’s “Rustbuster” innovation recently caught the attention of Scientists from Commander, Naval Surface Forces SES! With CNSF granting specific funding for further research and prototypes, Susie Alderson and her team of advisers recently visited Dorsey onboard USS BENFOLD to take a look at his idea in action!

Dan Green, Director of SPAWAR’s Joint Advanced Manufacturing Region Southwest and the Secretary of the Navy’s Innovation Implementation Lead for Katalyst 21 was one of many advisers who met with Dorsey.

“This was our first DoN Katalyst-21 event and I am very pleased with the engagement so far”, says Dan. “From an Innovation lifecycle perspective, the DoN Katalyst-21 concept supports rapid prototyping and risk reduction phases that follow the generation of good ideas.  Our mission is to support the “incubation”  of Fleet Innovation by connecting sailor-generated ideas with a means to digitally or physically prototype and grow ideas into possible solutions.”

This is promising opportunity for the San Diego ATHENA community!

BMSA Dorsey led the team through his divisional spaces, explaining the issues faced with current Needle Guns and illustrating the areas where current tools onboard cannot fully tackle preservation challenges.

The needle gun is a simple pneumatic tool that uses compressed air to a piston which constantly pounds on a set of needles. Dorsey wanted to make the needle gun more versatile, creating interchangeable fittings with different types of needles to match different surfaces, while also making it a few inches smaller for those hard-to-reach spaces.

“This will save us time by just changing the fittings rather than leaving our work and getting another tool,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey also proposed changing the design of the trigger for increased grip and reduced hand fatigue. Some ideas he expressed for the interchangeable tips included a round tip for softer metals, a v-shaped tip for deep, layered rust and a chisel head for wide paint “busting.”

“I have done some research, but I have yet to find a pneumatic tool that uses the piston design with interchangeable fittings,” Dorsey said.

Pete Schmitz of Intel Corporation was fulled immersed in Dorsey’s walkthrough. Utilizing revolutionary 3-D image mapping technology on a tablet, Pete was able to photograph the difficult equipment and spaces that Dorsey highlighted. Using specialized software, the CNSF team will combine those 3-D images with Dorsey’s prototype ideas to develop several solutions for prototype.

The design team at CNSF is currently working these prototypes and intends to return their results to Mr. Dorsey in the coming weeks!

Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant onboard the Ballistic Missile Defense Guided Missile Destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is a graduate of Oregon State University in Entrepreneurship.

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!

Design Thinking! The Experience of 3M TANG

By: LTJG Tom Baker

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On the afternoon of Monday June 8th, I left the mighty BENFOLD and drove north to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, excited about a promising opportunity to collaborate, create, and solve.

It was a slow roll through the front gate – ID check sat – and after two wrong turns in an unfamiliar base, I found my way to the Miramar Officer’s Club. With slightly wrinkled slacks and polo shirt from my journey, I entered to find two brightly smiling faces at a table full of gizmos and documents. “Hi, welcome to 3M TANG!”.

I was christened with my colorful badge, complete with a “Mavericks” team button. Thoughts filled my head like, ‘what is this thing for!?’ and ‘What have I gotten myself into?’

Oh was I in for a surprise.

I was gestured to the right into a large room and what fell before my eyes was what an innovator at heart may compare to the large candy room that Willy Wonka reveals to the children during their factory tour. And so my voyage into wonderful world of TANG began.

This is 3M TANG – in detail: The Maintenance, Material, and Management (3M) Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation. From June 8th-11th, 30 hand-selected warfighters were chosen to help create ideas, concepts, and solutions for future 3M systems, displays, hardware, policy, and procedures. This three-day workshop that I was attending – the culmination of months of research and insight generation – was designed to make tangible improvement to what the Navy largely affirms to be an outdated and broken maintenance system.

The first TANG event was held in 2011 to address challenges associated with Submarine displays. ADM Richardson, then the Commander of Submarine Forces, called for positive change and away the first TANG went – in San Diego – to prototype some concepts. The teams, through iteration, went from foamcore prototypes at the event to working models within a handful of months, finally transitioning concepts onto Submarines through the APB process. Since that first event, the team has accomplished several TANGs tackling a variety of challenges – Executive TANG, Australian/US TANG and Surface ASW TANG just to name a few.

3M TANG - the most recent event for the team - and plenty more to come!

3M TANG – the most recent event for the team – and plenty more to come!

TANG has been relentlessly successful because their creative structures accomplish two otherwise rare practices. One, they place stakeholders, technology experts, and warfighters in one room. Normally, the creator & stakeholder are geographically separated from the sailor, so valuable lines of communication and feedback are delayed. Secondly, TANG manages to get everyone rowing in a unified direction! Objectives are clarified quickly, and the team keeps each other in check.

Groups of people talking closely, jotting down notes on large white posters, laughing, or gathered around booths holding, wearing, and interacting with some of the coolest tech I’ve ever seen. My nervousness dissipated as I saw familiar faces in the room ~ a family of supporters and creators that have held The Athena Project afloat since its earliest inception, joined together with the TANG team was incredibly welcoming and put me into a state of creative euphoria.

The first event – the Tech Expo – showcased some of the most respected companies standing side-by-side with organizations that I’ve never heard of – their ideas all equally-incredible. I spent the rest of day one playing with technology and interacting with the creators who I realize are wholly devoted to giving our Sailors their best.

The tech expo is geared toward “unlocking the realm of the possible” to inform the brainstorming efforts of the teams from around the fleet. Over the next three days, our teams would engage in the process of Design Thinking to brainstorm, prototype, and present our creations.

I hardly thought that the second day could be better than the first, but I was wrong. The TANG team, partnered with award-winning innovators at IDEO, identified 14 solutions to known 3M issues that emerged throughout the course of some exhaustive empathetic research around our fleet. So, one of the first primers we did was to provide feedback on those concepts. Through “I wish” and “I like” statements, along with questions and concerns, the room collectively penned sticky notes to accompany these concepts, an exercise designed to kick-start the brainstorming process.

After we finished the concept card exercise, I came to find out that the “Mavericks” button I’m wearing is a team name. And, after a rousing and supportive speech by the Commander of Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Rowden, the room is fired up to create!

Design thinking chart

We kick off the Design Thinking Process with some brainstorming. The goals are to generate a lot of ideas in a little time, get different perspectives, and build some excitement! Each group member starts slapping sticky notes to these ideas with every thought under the sun. I noticed a little poster next to our white space.

THE 7 RULES OF EFFECTIVE BRAINSTORMING

  1. Defer judgement
  2. Encourage wild ideas
  3. Build on the ideas of others
  4. Stay focused on the topic
  5. One conversation at a time
  6. Be visual
  7. Go for quantity

Some of the notes are features: “WIFI”, “Bluetooth”, “PERSONAL Profiles!”. Other stickies are more conceptual, or the “how” behind other stickies: “Hire coders”, “Partner with existing tablet creators”. Some of our mates are categorizing and connecting ideas as we go along. Everything is so fluid. During this process, I start learning how each of my new friends thinks. Those stickies and the conversations about them start to reveal personalities, and we fall naturally into our team roles.

Our mission, together, was to combine a couple of really interesting ideas that the team had collectively brainstormed and voted on. The PMS Recipe Card is a platform and ship specific set of digital maintenance instructions. PMS is planned similar to meal planning as it captures what tools, qualifications, hazardous materials, and training are necessary to carry out the plan. Our other idea, the Workcenter 3M Tablet, provides the ability to take these PMS Recipe cards anywhere in the ship, and even write and submit a job or feedback report.

Once we had the direction for our new concept, we dive into the room’s ‘arts and crafts’ section to get our ideas into the physical space. There were tables filled with large white papers, foamcore, glue guns and a table full of a crazy conglomerate of supplies (pipe cleaners, whiteboard markers, full-size candy bars… you get the idea).

Team Mavericks - having fun with Top Gun puns since 2015.

Team Mavericks – having fun with Top Gun puns since 2015.

Our team is now deep into prototyping. There is no better way to communicate a concept to our team with minimal investment. We can tear it apart, tweak it, or add on to it as soon as we see the need. I see some more guidance on the wall for this step in the process. Luckily I had some notes from a quick brainstorming and prototyping presentation by Dave Blakely from mach49 to remember the details:

PROTOTYPING

  1. Building to think. Prototypes are tools used both to validate ideas and to help us generate them. Prototypes force us to think about how someone would interact with our concept.
  2. Rough & rapid. Prototypes are exploratory, not precious. They should be built as quickly and cheaply as possible.
  3. Answering questions. It’s essential to know what question a prototype is being used to answer: whether it’s around desirability, usefulness, usability, viability, or feasibility.
The prototyping toolbox.

The prototyping toolbox.

I drag a piece of foamcore the size of a picnic table over to our corner of the room. My friends are at the table of supplies, gathering markers, scissors, more stickies (because we understand the need at this point), and even manage to return with a handful of chocolate chip cookies. We are really clicking at this point. We cut out a foam-core tablet larger than the bed of a full-size pickup truck. There are so many concepts to visualize that we start drawing out “screen shots” on large pieces of white paper. With some help from the TANG facilitators, we realize we can rotate these white papers through our tablet frame to visualize to an audience.

Some of us want to add more detail, others realize the tight timeline we are on and move quickly to the next screen. Again, our personalities revealed, roles refined. We met each other 40 minutes ago and operate like a well-oiled machine.

Eventually, we would present our prototypes and concepts to the entire TANG audience and receive the invaluable live feedback through “I like” and “I wish” statements, questions, and concerns. Earlier in the writing I spoke about the three teams of warfighters. Well, there’s a fourth team of Stakeholders – the technology holder, sponsoring companies and those who want to and CAN create positive change – who will be giving feedback on our ideas and also sharing their own ideas to positively impact the future of 3M in the fleet. Our prototyping and presentation processes start to reveal who they are.

Another half hour later, and the room comes alive in theatrics as we rehearse our presentation. We feel confident about our prototype. It’s time to receive feedback and refine! At this point I recall my mind being expanded yet exhausted. I was fulfilled by the roller coaster of turning a collection of several hundred thoughts into something I could hold in my hand, complete with a rehearsed delivery by a cohesive team. And the most exciting part of this design thinking process, was that all of this preparation is to create something intentionally non-permanent – ready for alteration, destruction, further creation, all by design. It’s easy to iterate on something that’s a rough prototype – much easier than when we’ve already dumped millions of dollars into a solution BEFORE gaining the warfighter feedback. The tendency is to NOT change things then. I walked away from the event excited about the fluidity and fragility of our idea’s future.

When we finished our sharing session, with all the teams presenting their ideas to the crowd, the room was filled with an incredible energy. It was a good thing, too: Because we were about to do the whole process one more time!

I took with me the incredible lessons in a new approach to problem-solving. It brought me back to my undergraduate days when I had read about these processes occurring at IDEO and other forward-leaners. Being immersed in Design Thinking revitalized my sense of confidence in our ability to solve large and small scale challenges. I am passionately drawn to thinking about our underlying purpose at The Athena Project. This experience was a “how” that I believe our incredibly talented Sailors can and should be encouraged to utilize when approaching an increasingly dynamic set of challenges and future threats.

We can set our focus primarily toward innovations, solutions, and products, and I believe we will enjoy a few breakthroughs. OR, we can set our focus toward changing the way we think and approach our environment, and I believe we will enjoy both a culture of dynamic problem-solvers, AND a far greater byproduct of innovations, solutions, and products!

LTJG Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant and Public Affairs Officer onboard USS BENFOLD and the San Diego lead for The Athena Project. He’s a proud graduate of Oregon State University, earning his degree in Entrepreneurship.

Stay tuned for our official announcement of Waterfront Athena 8! If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and want to participate, reach out to the Athena team on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail!

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!

Waterfront Athena 7 Roundup

By: ENS Tom Baker

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We hosted our seventh Waterfront Athena gathering at Mike Hess Brewery Tasting Room in San Diego’s North Park on Friday April 24th for another incredible presentation of talent from twelve of our Fleet sailors.

It was wonderful to see our reliable contingent of SPAWAR engineers, several professors from local universities, and local business colleagues from our excellent network!  To kick off the event, we were welcomed by VADM Philip Cullom, Deputy CNO for Fleet Readiness & Logistics, who delivered an encouraging message to over 70 attendees via Facetime from Washington!

A snapshot of our innovators:

*** The Waterfront Athena Seven Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

“P&D Line Optimization″ – STG2 Richard Coronado, USS BENFOLD

STG3 Richard Coronado

During Underway Replenishments, up to 15 sailors are employed specifically to handle the Phone and Distance (P&D) line, a critical navigation tool when two ships are separated by a mere 180 feet of water. The team on deck performs minuscule adjustments to keep the line between two ships tight for for up to two hours. Necessary for the team driving the ship on the bridge, the P&D team’s job is a taxing feat, unless you leverage existing technology…

STG2 Coronado envisions two prototypes – One mechanical, and one laser-based.

The first idea is a mechanical system that will be used to hold tension on the P&D line instead of 12 sailors. This method would require a shot line to be sent over to the refueling ship, and the P&D line to be hauled over as it currently is. However, it would be held under tension by a mechanical system instead of sailors.

As STG3 Coronado explains, “We would feed the P&D line around a pulley, attach it to a bungee, and attach that bungee to a climbing rope or similar that would be passed  through a climbing grigri (belaying device) or similar locking device that is anchored to a bit or other extremely strong fitting already in place on the forecastle.  This would require one or two extra fittings to be welded somewhere on the forecastle for the P&D line to be guided through. This would require one person to monitor the overall tension being held by the bungee cord, and adjust slack at the locking devices anchor point.”

Coronado’s alternative is to use a laser-type rangefinder that can be placed on the side of the ship to display the distance of the nearest object (the other ship). This information could then be transmitted to a display screen on the bridge that will give the conning officer a digital number indicating the actual distance between ships.

The crowd was certainly impressed with the detailed descriptions and multiple possibilities to improve our P&D line, and our Admiral Sims award winner was already caught topside trying to find a way to rig a prototype!

“Zebra Chips″ – OS1 Victoria Shearer , USS BENFOLD

  OS1 Victoria Shearer

Petty Officer Shearer developed her idea in response to frustration that she noticed as her ship navigates the Surface Navy’s training cycle. She noted specifically wasted man hours training Sailors to set enhanced material condition on the ship, Zebra, to mitigate against casualties such as flooding or fires in shipboard spaces.

“We spend approximately 60 man hours per scenario for setting and verifying the proper setting of condition Zebra! My solution is a time-saving implementation,” Shearer said.

In her concept, an existing technology, called a piezoresistive pressurized chip, could execute in seconds what takes an entire ship almost an hour. When installed on hatches and scuttles, this chip allows an indication to read from the ship’s Central Control Station that the appropriate material condition has been set.  The device is approximately 0.2-0.3 mm, has been tested in temperatures of 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressure tested at 300 lbs. The chip is so minuscule that water and air tight integrity should not be a factor.

“Installing these chips on watertight devices throughout the Fleet will save thousands of man hours each month!” Shearer said.

“P2: Password Protector″ – ENS Claire Calkins, USS BENFOLD

ENS Claire Calkins

In the Navy, every Sailor must change their account passwords numerous times each year. When they are changed, they are expected to use 15+ characters, letters, and and assortment of symbols. As the Communication Officer onboard BENFOLD, ENS Calkins noticed that her Sailors were allocating countless hours each month to assist in the changing of passwords, so she devised a low cost, easy to use alternative to constantly changing passwords.

“My project objectives were: a user friendly application, never to manually change passwords, encryption, diverse in usability, and easily updated,” Calkins said.

The solution: (P2): Password Protector. The initiative would allow Sailors to log onto their computers with their CAC card and pin. Once they log on, the application will run seamlessly behind their profile, logging them on to all accounts they have added to the application. To modify their accounts, users would be able to open the application, which would look like a simplified Excel spreadsheet with each line consisting of four dropdowns: Application/Website Name, Periodicity of password change, Password Requirements, and Current Password. The application will have pre-programmed options for each dropdown. For example, Application/Website Name will be a dropdown with NIPR, SIPR, NTCSS, etc. The Password Requirement dropdown will consist of 3-5 requirements (users can click + to add more if needed) with options like number of characters, uppercase, lowercase, etc. Finally the Current Password block will be filled in with a randomly generated password that passes all of the password requirements set. The user will be able to add lines as they create more accounts.

The application will be created using simple script that pulls HTML or PHP from different applications/websites to assist in password reset as well as being encrypted to protect all passwords.

“At any point, a person may log into their normal websites and change their passwords. If users lose their CAC card there will be a backup function that asks security questions similar to a banking website, allowing the user to see all of their current passwords,” Calkins said. “My hope is to keep the user interface as clean and simple as possible so that Sailors will feel comfortable using it. Lastly, as the Navy is a very transient community, the application will have an export feature. Sailors will be able to export all of the data to a simple CD before heading to their next command. This ensures no time will be lost going to a new command!”

“Terminal System″ – EMFR Ryan Gough, USS BENFOLD

EMFR Ryan Gough

EMFR Gough, a new addition to the crew, expressed that he noticed a very specific challenge that many Sailors experience since he reported onboard: Mustering on time, especially in instances that a very rapid and accurate muster is required, such as a man overboard.

“We have to send investigators to find damage done from being hit by a enemy ship and not knowing exactly where we were hit, the simple fact is that it’s hard to find people on the ship or takes too long to find them,” Gough said.

His Terminal System would be a programmed, computer-based system that accounts, tracks, and monitors the personnel onboard the ship at all times during working hours.

The terminal itself would be about the size of a small box, like a punch in and out box for a normal hourly job.  It has a screen on it with a few arrows and enter buttons to select or deselect. It has the list of all personnel that report to the ship, and the location in which each terminal is located. What the list provides is the accountability of each personnel when they swipe their card and type in their password to get onboard.

Within each Sailors’s card is an RFID chip. It continuously transmits a frequency with a code at a certain distance. Each terminal has the software to see the signal that the RFID is transmitting and will be able to locate you depending where the terminal is. Gough envisioned additional uses for the system as well.

“In the scenario of someone conducting maintenance in a space that does not have normal traffic, a person falls hitting their head and become unconscious. The terminal will see that you are in that space for quite some time, and send a signal to our watchstanders who can then attend to your injury,” Gough said.

The Terminal could also be used as an information node. If a Sailor has to leave the ship for any reason, all they would have to do is go to the nearest terminal, select “going ashore” and enter the times and possibly even reason they would be gone.

“Timely accountability, GQ , Man Overboard, etc… that’s what this system can improve given the proper attention!” Gough said.

“Equipment Imaging System″ – OSSN Jason Bardin, USS BENFOLD

OSSN Jason Bardin

OSSA Bardin’s concept, the Equipment Imaging System (EIS) is an updated, clarified, and interactive 3M Discrepancy Log.

EIS is to be completely digital, removing paper documentation of equipment all together while giving Work Center Supervisors (WCS) an even more efficient way of Identifying and Verifying PMS discrepancies. The system is to be comprised of a software integrated with SKED, just as Adobe Photoshop utilizes their Adobe Bridge Integration to quickly access and view media. When the WCS closes out the 13 Week Report, they encounter the issues of “See Check Notes” and then have to refer to the work centers Discrepancy Log for each check. Currently, the WCS must physically find the equipment to verify whether maintenance is properly being signed for.

With EIS, each division would be assigned a certain amount of cameras integrated with Wifi for Maintenance Personnel to utilize. When a maintenance person finds a discrepancy beyond their ability of correction, they simply take a snap shot of the error on the equipment, add a quick description, and the picture will sync to their personal Directory on EIS. The WCS simply has to open SKED, find the check and see the related image to verify proper usage of “See Check Notes”. EIS will be utilized with Spot Checks to eliminate any confusion of how/whether maintenance was done on the equipment. All images/videos can be stored externally and wirelessly on a separate removable hard drive eliminating the concern of slowing down any work centers computer.

“EIS is the future of maintenance as the Navy moves towards being faster and more efficient in every day to day work,” Bardin said.

“Outstanding Sweeper″ – FC2 Ryan Rackley, USS BENFOLD

FC2 Ryan Rackley

Petty Officer Rackley took aim at improving the age-old institution of “Sweepers” onboard Navy ships.  Her concept would consists of water tight-capable vents – about three inches long and one inch tall – at the bottom of the bulkheads next to the deck. The vents would allow Sailors to sweep all of the dust down onto the deck, and initialize the system to suck in all of the dust. The dust would travel to dust compartments that contain allergen-free hepa filters, to be cleaned out weekly or bi-weekly.

Rackley explained that the system would allow sailors to breathe cleaner air, by filtering it before circulation.

“The average sailor spends around 2,190 minutes per year sweeping,” Rackley said.  “The Outstanding Sweeper would ultimately provide more time for critical maintenance hours while adhering to procedural compliance.”

“Battle Lantern Upgrade″ – FC2 Larson , USS BENFOLD

FC2 Larson

On surface ships, there are emergency lighting rigs called battle lanterns, which allow for Sailors to transit the ship safely or see critical equipment in the event of a power outage or casualty. Petty Officer Larson, after spending several months assigned temporarily to the damage control maintenance shop onboard, developed an innovative idea to improve the devices.

Larson pitched an upgrade to the relay in the battle lantern to make the wires within the battle lantern a “quick” connect system.  He explained that this would eliminate the need to cut, strip, and splice wires together.

“Too many man hours are wasted hooking up a battle lantern the ‘old way,'” Larson said. “A quick connect system is efficient and the maintenance person will know that the wires are connected correctly and not worry about wires coming unhooked after splicing a wire together.”

Additionally, the excess wires could be held inside the empty space of the relay.  Larson’s reasoning for this was twofold: To eliminate the chances of battle lantern wires melting and shorting out causing more man hours to be wasted re-repairing a battle lantern and increased safety.

“If a wire does melt, this could cause a electrical fire in the battle lantern, so this will be a much safer system!” Larson said.

“Air Squeegie″ – STG1 Mike Butcher, LCSRON N7 ASW

STG1 Mike Butcher IMG_20150429_132006488

Petty Officer Butcher explored the idea of an air powered squeegee for the towed sonar array on CRUDES ships. His basic idea is a 6″ semicircular ring of stainless tube with three air jets protruding from it at the 12, 4, and 8 o’clock positions and two mounting brackets on the sides to attach the device to existing hardware on the fairlead assembly of the ship. The purpose of this system would be to quickly and efficiently dry the towed array and its associated cable as it is retrieved. Butcher’s idea, as many are, was born out of frustration.

“The current method of drying the gear during recovery is 2-3 junior sailors with a bail of rags hand drying the cable/ array as it comes on board,” Butcher said. “This presents numerous problems including safety of personnel and excess corrosion in the space from wet rags being hung to dry as well as drainage during the recovery options. The air would strip the water from the gear and, if mounded correctly, would spray it back out the fairlead assembly and over the side.”

This device would decrease required manpower, increase safety and save the Navy money, as a one-time expense would eliminate the need for purchasing the large quantity of rags needed to support towed array operations during deployments.

“The Corps″ – SN Vu, USS BENFOLD, and his colleague Ben Iwan

SN Richard Vu

Since WWII, Naval Special Warfare has developed a well respected name worldwide with the SEAL Teams and SWCC Boat Teams, earned by Sailors who endure incredibly difficult and valuable training in arguably the hardest military training in the world.

“The training weeds out those who do not belong or those who are not yet ready for the job that follows,” Vu said.

Vu explained that a problem that needs to be addressed is that of those who do not make it through the programs. Most of these men are well educated, fit, motivated and hold onto a strong work ethic. These Sailors who drop from these programs are typically sent to the fleet in a job they do not want, creating retention and performance problems.

“Our idea was to create a new, similar, infantry rate for the Navy where Sailors take some of the marines jobs such as VBSS- or MEU-styled billets on amphibious ships, but are also able to a sailor’s job as firefighter or a line handler,” Vu said. “These Sailors who joined to be SEALs or SWCC, joined to see combat and die for their country in the most honorable way they saw fit and most could argue that many did not join for a paycheck either. With a new rate that gives them something to fill the gap that an undesignated deck seaman cannot fill, retention and motivation for these sailors will be much higher due to the simple fact that they are able to be placed in a job in which they would enjoy.”

“Needle Gun Improvement″ – BMSR Robert Dorsey, USS BENFOLD

BMSR Robert Dorsey

BMSR Dorsey, another new member of BENFOLD’s crew, birthed an idea on a topic that he has become very familiar with since reporting aboard:

“I want to reinvent the needle gun!” Dorsey said.

The needle gun is a simple pneumatic tool that uses compressed air to a piston which constantly pounds on a set of needles. Dorsey wanted to make the needle gun more versatile, creating interchangeable fittings with different types of needles to match different surfaces, while also making it a few inches smaller for those hard-to-reach spaces.

“This will save us time by just changing the fittings rather than leaving our work and getting another tool,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey also proposed changing the design of the trigger for increased grip and reduced hand fatigue. Some ideas he pitched for the interchangeable tips included a round tip for softer metals, a v-shaped tip for deep, layered rust and a chisel head for wide paint “busting.”

“I have done some research, but I have yet to find a pneumatic tool that uses the piston design with interchangeable fittings,” Dorsey said.

“Bomb Robot″ – IC3 Katie Rogers, USS BENFOLD

IC3 Katie Rogers

Rogers’ idea is a shipboard vehicular unit that could assist sailors in dangerous situations and save lives.  In her concept, the Bomb Robot would have the ability to navigate the ship with gecko treads on triangular wheel bearings and shipboard schematics loaded for smart movement.

The robot would be equipped with a 360 degree camera for viewing hard to reach places, a thermal sensor for high-temperature of flame-filled environments, and chemical detection paper for CBR or toxic environments.

“It could detect and identify harmful substances,” Rogers said. “The unique robot is hardwired vice wireless controlled, allowing it to be used during a “HERO” environment. This robot is about reducing the risk of human error and injury while quickly transiting our ship to locate threats.”

“Waste to Energy Engine″ – QM1 Walls, USS BENFOLD

QM1 Walls

Petty Officer Walls found frustration in the Navy generating thousands of pounds of trash every day. While he found movements to start recycling, and mandates to do so in several overseas bases, he expressed that they would only lessen the environmental impact and there is little to no incentive for the individual sailor to participate.

“There is a technology that is able to take that waste and use it to generate energy,” Walls said. “This is energy that, if we could translate it onto our ships, would significantly decrease the amount of fuel required by our shipboard generators to create electricity for our ships.  And if the technology can’t be translated onto our ships, we could still put it to use on our bases, and benefit from the energy there; possibly even be able to provide energy for our surrounding communities, while saving millions of dollars in trash processing and landfill fees.”

Walls saw opportunity in Sweden’s waste-to-energy engine.

“Sweden has been able to refine the process of converting waste to energy that they have been able to effectively eliminate residual waste and the need for landfills in their country,” Walls said. “They are so efficient with it that their neighbors in Norway are currently paying Sweden to take their trash and use it- an arrangement that is gaining Sweden millions of dollars every year in addition to providing fuel for the industry that is providing energy to Swedish citizens.”

The byproducts of the process (dioxins and heavy metals) are hazardous, but the Navy already has procedures in place to handle hazardous materials like these.

“We should adopt this technology and develop a naval engine that eats our trash!” Walls said.

Onward With Valor

Stay tuned as we experience an exciting summer of growth and change! As we continue to expand Athena within San Diego over the summer, the mighty BENFOLD will make it’s transition to Japan, bringing ATHENA to a new corner of the world.

ENS Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant onboard USS BENFOLD and the San Diego lead for The Athena Project. He’s a proud graduate of Oregon State University, earning his degree in Entrepreneurship.

Don’t forget! Athena Northwest 3.0 is right around the corner! If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and want to participate, reach out to the Athena team on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail!

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!

Swinging Level – How Baseball Can Inspire Innovation

By: LT Dave Nobles

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Growing up, I played a lot of baseball. While I was certainly no child prodigy, I wasn’t half bad either.

Like every Little Leaguer, I desperately wanted to knock the casing off the ball, a la Roy Hobbes in The Natural.  So, like most kids in Little League, I’d swing about as hard as I could, trying to uppercut the ball right out of the ballpark.

And, I usually missed.

Not to be discouraged, I practiced.  I took hours upon hours of batting practice, and I worked hard to get my swing right.  One thing that sticks out in my head about those hours at the ballpark was something that my Dad told me as he pitched me buckets upon buckets of baseballs, likely doing permanent damage to his pitching arm:

Just swing level, and the power will come.

So I did, and I actually got pretty good. I was consistently making solid contact and before long I was comfortable in the batter’s box and was spraying line-drive base hits all over the field.

But, I wasn’t hitting any home runs. Sadly, I wasn’t blasting baseballs into the lights, creating explosions and raining sparks onto the field as I trotted triumphantly around the bases as I had hoped. But, I was doing very well for the team and I was having fun.

Then it happened. With a level swing, I crushed a ball in a game further than I ever had, straight out of the park.

The Old Man was right: Swing level and the power will come. And it did.

Now maybe it’s just because baseball season is upon us and it makes me feel a little nostalgic, but I was reminded of this story as I considered the Navy’s relentless (and often misguided) pursuit of innovation.

Now, let the record show that I do not think that innovation is a false pursuit. I wouldn’t be on the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell if I did. Calling innovation a fruitless goal is like saying Home Runs are a bad thing. Home Runs are always good, provided you’re on the team that’s hitting them!

Rather, if we want more innovation, perhaps we should pursue and inspire creativity. Just as if we want the long ball, we should take the time to coach fundamental baseball to our young players. If we want our folks to innovate, we need to teach the tools necessary to realize that goal, rather than preaching the goal.  Maybe pursuing innovation as an end state is the same thing as taking that big, hacking, hard-as-you-can uppercut swing when you’re at the plate.

If what we really want is more innovation, then perhaps we should advocate creativity in thought. Maybe we should make training more effective by injecting a dose of creativity.

Maybe we could inspire a new generation of creative sailors by using tools like General Military Training (GMT) as a vehicle to provide exercises to managers that encourage Sailors to think differently and hone an ability to connect dots.

Sure “Creativity GMT” is a pretty lofty goal that would likely take some time to implement. In the meantime, there’s no reason that we can’t apply some of the myriad tools easily found online to the training regimens for our respective divisions, departments and commands.

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What are you doing building spaghetti towers?!?! Get back to work!

Here are just a few of the awesome websites out there that can spark the creativity training process:

Stanford University d.school: Here you can grab a boatload of guidance on the brainstorming process, including tools for facilitation. While you’re there, check out the virtual crash course in design thinking!

Mind Tools: A site dedicated to honing ideation tools for businesses, there are tons of exercises here that you could use to spark a great session within your work group.

Marshmallow Challenge: Here’s a specific exercise that you can equip yourself for in the grocery aisle, aimed at bringing teams together.

Creative Confidence: A book by Tom and David Kelley of IDEO, the matching website gives a page full of tools to learn design thinking.

Creative Thinking: The Web’s repository for brainstorming books, techniques and exercises. This site could populate your training plan for a year.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Google is your friend when trying to find some fun exercises that can train the brain to not only think outside the box, but to rip the old one down and build a new, bigger box.

By unlocking the latent creativity within our Sailors, especially our junior Sailors who may have joined the Navy looking to be inspired, we drastically widen the innovation aperture. And, like a muscle, exercising that creativity will only strengthen it, leading to some great things.

Maybe doing that d.school crash course on reimagining the gift giving experience will be all the inspiration needed for a Sailor to start believing in their own creative abilities and looking for ways to make things better. Then, the next time that Sailor sees a problem, rather than becoming frustrated, they’ll craft a creative solution and make the Navy better.

Make no mistake: The Navy is 100% a People Business and those people are our greatest asset. By empowering our people to be intellectually curious, we might spur even more participation in so many of the great groups that are trying to grow the creative culture within the Navy, like CRIC[x], TANG, DEF[x], CIMSEC and, of course, The Athena Project.

One of the goals of Athena has always been to inspire a cadre of young officers and junior Sailors to think differently, relentlessly question the status quo and not be afraid to do something about it.

Let’s get creative and keep growing the wave!

 

Dave Nobles is the Combat Systems Officer onboard the Ballistic Missile Defense Guided Missile Destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is also a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.

Interested in presenting an idea at the next Waterfront Athena Event, May 30th at Societe Brewing Company in Clairemont Mesa? Message us on Facebook or Twitter @AthenaNavy. Do you hate social media? Send us an e-mail instead!: ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil.

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Societe Brewing: Home base for Waterfront Athena Five!

 

 

Beware the Scenery: Noticing the Unnoticed

By: LT Dave Nobles

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Shipyards are filthy, filthy places.

There are a lot of things that I love about the Navy, but a prolonged stay in a shipyard for a maintenance availability just ain’t one of them. Nonetheless, my ship has been moored at BAE Systems Shipyard in San Diego for an extensive Combat Systems Modernization to AEGIS Baseline 9C.

As anyone in the Navy can tell you, the shipyard environment brings with it a unique set of leadership challenges. Not the least of these is keeping things clean. BENFOLD entered the shipyard in August, and I can tell you: We’ve been battling to maintain cleanliness in this industrial environment ever since.

Fast forward to Saturday. It was a typical duty day for me as Command Duty Officer, and I had just finished observing evening colors. After we’d finished up, my Section Leader and I walked back to our berthing barge (moored outboard of us, because the crew can’t sleep on the torn-apart warship) for 8 O’Clock Reports when I noticed something.

I looked over to my left on the way into the barge and noticed some dirt on a bulkhead (wall, for the non-nautical). Honestly, it didn’t even seem too dirty, so I reached out and touched it. When I did, my fingerprints left two bold white streaks through the layers of dirt that had built up there.

Now, this is a bulkhead that we all walk by on a daily basis on our way into the barge. As I said before, we’ve been waging war against the dust bunnies since we came in the yards, so how did we miss this?

Because it became part of the scenery. We fell into the entrenchment trap.

At a small level, it’s the Broken Windows Theory in action: A building with broken, unrepaired windows is more likely to be vandalized. By the theory, vandals believe that if the windows aren’t repaired, then it must be “all right” to break more. Eventually, that leads to increased crime of all types in a neighborhood.

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“Oh, this must be the land where vandalism is OK!”
-Vandal

In the shipyard environment, surrounded by filth, metal shards, discarded contractor earplugs and the like (trust me, there are many worse things, too) the dirty bulkhead became subconsciously “all right” despite our best efforts as a crew.

Well not anymore: Because we caught it. We fixed the window.

And as we scrubbed the filthy bulkhead together with warm, soapy water, I had some time to reflect. This was a microcosmic example of a bigger phenomena: When you’ve been in a place or at an organization long enough, things just start to become part of the scenery. Whether it be a process, a dirty wall, or a program, sometimes it pays to take a step back and view it with a fresh set of eyes. A critical set of eyes.

At all of our organizations, we may have grown accustomed to practices that may require a fresh take or a change. These, my friends, are the petri dishes of innovation.

So, what did I learn at the end of the day? Well, first and foremost, I got a good reminder to bring a more critical eye to the daily walk of my department’s spaces onboard the ship. But, I also learned that the same critical, fresh eye can be applied to any area on the ship and beyond.

In the book Creative Confidence, Tom and David Kelley advocate carrying “bug lists” of things that you may see with fresh eyes that could be done better. The idea being that the list will inspire idea generation for a movement, service or business that you could start to fix it. The book is also filled with examples of people who’ve gone the full distance when they found something that needed fixing and fixed it. Really inspiring stuff.

So, let’s do the same onboard our ships and within our organizations. Let’s don the fresh set of eyes and refuse to let things become part of the scenery.

Mahatma Ghandi said that we should be the change that we want to see in the world. So, let’s resolve to change what needs changing and fix what needs fixing, and let’s make things better. Because better is good.

Don’t forget the warm, soapy water.

LT Dave Nobles is a Surface Warfare Officer assigned as Weapons Officer aboard USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is also a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.

Interested in pitching at our upcoming Waterfront Athena Event on February 13th at San Diego’s Ballast Point Little Italy Tasting Room? Message us!

Project Pulse: Optical Database and Information Network (ODIN)

ImageAs we approach our next Waterfront Athena Event – February 13th at the Ballast Point Brewery Tasting Room in Little Italy – we’re going to showcase some of our past projects here on the blog. Both to give everyone an update on what our Sailors have done, but also to stir up some creative juices from any would-be presenters out there. What better place to start than our last winners? Enjoy!

-The Athena Team

When USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) deployed last year to the US Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility, she spent an awful lot of time in the Arabian Gulf. The ship, like most Ballistic Missile Defense destroyers deployed to that AOR, spent that time conducting a plethora of mission sets while waiting to be called upon for any exercise or event that would require the use of the specialized mode of SPY radar.

As any Sailor who’s spent time in the Arabian Gulf can attest, it is a high-traffic environment. While steaming around the area, from mission to mission, watchstanders FC2(SW) Robert VanAllen, FC2(SW) Michael Owen and FC2(SW) Lisa Stamp became frustrated with the way the destroyer identified ships in her vicinity. With the available systems and tools, BENFOLD managed to effectively identify nearby ships, but the three Fire Controlmen collectively felt that the process was ripe for improvement.

Fast-forward six months later, the team got wind of The Athena Project and put together a presentation on a system that could remedy the process. They called it the Optical Database and Information Network (ODIN).

“Millions of dollars of technology and thousands of hours of training were put on hold as watchstanders played advanced ‘Pictionary: Warships Edition’ attempting to identify visual contacts,” said FC2(SW) Owen, a CIWS Technician. “Watchstanders flipping through a Jane’s catalog in the middle of this environment is one of the most ridiculously, inexplicably inefficient sights in our modern Navy. The expertise and technology already exists for us to do better, and we sought to codify that with our ODIN presentation.”

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A great resource, to be sure, but is this really the best way to identify surface contacts in a tension-filled AOR?

And codify they did. In their pitch, the team proposed using software (not unlike the facial recognition software resident on nearly every smartphone) to pick out easily-identifiable aspects of nearby ships – mast location, heat signatures, size and aspect, etc. – and narrow down the list of ships that a contact could be down. By their assertion, simple algorithms could do the lion’s share of the legwork using visual data already being collected by ships.

Well, their pitch was clearly top-notch, because these three junior Sailors won Waterfront Athena, taking home the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.

Shortly after the event, the team began working directly with a group of individuals at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) working a project called RAPIER that would use overhead imagery to identify surface contacts. The marriage of the ODIN and RAPIER teams was smart, as many of their efforts would work toward the same goal: Building an accurate Recognized Maritime Picture that all could use.

The RAPIER team, led by Ms. Heidi Buck in the Advanced Analysis Systems Branch at SPAWAR has been interfacing directly with the three BENFOLD Sailors on a path to make their idea from Athena a reality. The teams have exchanged media, had several meetings, and have arranged for an upcoming ship tour to give the scientists at SPAWAR a better view of the challenges Sailors face at sea. In fact, the Learning Warfighter Needs Workshop was born through the continued, strong relationship between The Athena Project and SPAWAR!

Currently, the SPAWAR team is sifting through the hours of imagery that the ODIN team has sent over. Soon, they expect an algorithm to be built to demonstrate proof of concept – an important step for any project.

“The response to our ODIN presentation has been really encouraging- scientists and engineers are interested and increasingly invested in a solution presented not by admirals, or master chiefs, but by the very people these technologies are intended to aid,” Owen said. “I sincerely hope anyone else out there with an idea sees what we’ve accomplished so far with ODIN and finds a way to come forward, be it via Athena or another format, and help shape their Navy and the Navy of generations of future Sailors.”

The road to realization for the ODIN team is still a long one, but the three FCs are speeding down it, with their phenomenal idea in the passenger seat!

And they aren’t stopping anytime soon!

Waterfront Athena – February 13th at Ballast Point’s Little Italy Tasting Room!

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The time for ideas is upon us again!

The Athena Project will be hosting its second Waterfront Event, open to all innovators, next month in sunny San Diego, California. In partnership with Ballast Point, we’ll be at their new tasting room in Little Italy at 2:00 PM!

For those who may be new to what The Athena Project is all about, here’s a quick rundown:

Named for the Greek goddess of reason, wisdom, courage and inspiration, Athena is a quarterly event to showcase ideas that junior Sailors have developed to make their commands, the Navy or the San Diego community better.

Founded on USS BENFOLD (DDG 65), we give Sailors time away from their traditional duties to dream up powerful ideas and put together action steps to make their ideas happen.

In our Waterfront Event, these innovators will have five minutes to pitch their concepts and propose action (without the crutch of Microsoft PowerPoint) before fielding five minutes of questions from the crowd. The audience will get to vote on each project for idea quality, actionability and presentation and the winner will receive the ADM Sims Award for Intellectual Courage. Those Sailors will gain the support of their command to form a small team to turn their idea into reality over the next quarter.

Our team and our Athenians can appreciate how difficult it can sometimes be to face seemingly overwhelming odds to bring ideas to life. Since the goddess Athena was a shrewd companion to heroes on epic endeavors, we provide not only the platform to be heard, but support each project through connecting dots that had previously been disconnected or building bridges and networks where none existed.

In our previous events, presenters have brought new processes to action at their commands, drafted articles on controversial topics, had projects prototyped by partners like the USC Institute of Creative Technologies, and are even currently working projects with entities like SPAWAR, NASA and more! In the month leading up to the next Waterfront Event, we’ll showcase some of those ideas here on the blog, so stay tuned.

If you have an idea that you want to pitch at Athena, you can e-mail ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil or just find and message us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/athenanavy) or Twitter (@AthenaNavy).

We hope that you’re as excited as we are for this awesome event! Join us, and let’s make the Navy better – One idea at a time!