Athena East 3.0: One Week Away!

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

 

 

Athena DC 1.0 Roundup

By LT George Yacus

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Hi everyone, Kilt here!  Long time listener, but first time contributor here on The Athena Project.

Athena DC 1.0 — what a success on so many frontsincluding the beautiful Potomac waterfront!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Yes, I have to talk about location and timing!  

Riding on the evening coattails of the local 2016 SEA  AIR SPACE expo Monday night gave Athenians several great benefits for this inaugural session, including:

  • An absolutely marvelous conference center snuggled in Maryland’s growing National Harbor on the beautiful Potomac (with access to adult beverages during the session if desired)
  • A great showing of inquisitive participants from the Navy League’s Global Maritime Exposition, and
  • Closer access to the refreshing Navy leadership who live on the fringes of our nation’s capital.

VADM Phil Cullom, Dr. Larry Schuette, Dr. Ralph Semmel, and Sharon Beermann-Curtin each took time out of their busy schedules–and maybe even missed a meeting or two–just so they could support our five Athena idea warriors as panelists.  What a testament to their commitment in making innovation a priority for action and engagement!

INTRODUCTION

The session kicked off with Dave Nobles as our jovial Master of Ceremonies, sharing the history of Athena–which has held about 20 events so far and has become a beacon of success for Naval innovation.  He also shared with us the concept behind  Athena’s snazzy new logo.

Indeed, as Dave said, The Athena Project has become the “Bat Signal” for Naval innovation success.  

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Only in this case, there is no “super hero” coming to the Navy’s rescue here in our nation’s capital city, which is normally known for legislative sausage-making, 15 year defense acquisition cycles, and risk-averse policy decisions from whom VADM Cullom likes to call “The Borg”.

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Acquisitions? Make it slow.

Instead, our heroes are diverse individuals just like you, who are not satisfied with assimilation into a sub par status quo!  Instead, you are folks who exhibit our Navy’s core values with intellectual honor, courage, and commitment.  You are willing to get an idea, run with it, and make it into a reality.

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INSPIRATION!

After Dave got us going, our five presenters and audience gained encouragement from the ideation powerhouse that is FRCMA (Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic).  

“Our command actually fosters innovation…from concept to culture.” said one of the guest speakers, ATC Williams from FRCMA, who was “blown away by communication between juniors and seniors” evident at his command, which has not one but two ideation think tanks that meet every other week, and also has systems in place where anyone can share their creative ideas.   

Chief Williams and the FRCMA team shared nearly a dozen ideas and processes they’ve developed and implemented in the realm of Navy innovation, which he describes as “taking what’s out there, and using it in a new and exciting way.”  

As a result, their work has spread from FRCs at Oceana and Norfolk to PAX River, New Orleans, and Washington.

But don’t let FRCMA’s success make you think that innovation comes easy, as we all know

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FOD Prevention? Make it glow.

ideation success takes leadership, hard work, and commitment.  Take for example LT Jason Shaw, who has spent ten years developing and then navigating funding and contract waters for his (literally) bright idea, which helps aviation maintenance personnel avoid FOD hazards (back to that theme in a second).  Or consider AD2 Shepard’s ongoing work to develop a better cranial that fits comfortably, doesn’t save up sweat, and requires fewer parts.

Our Athena idea warriors thus gained inspiration from those who have gone before us, knowing that their–and your–ideas, can literally the save the Navy time, money, and more importantly, save the lives of our fellow warfighters.

So regardless of whether or not our idea presenters’ concepts are implemented now, or even a decade from now as they battle “The Borg” or as some of us like to say, the “Frozen

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Innovation? Let it go.

 

Middle”, who just want to let good ideas go away, we’re thankful for all of our attendees’ presence, patience, and persistence, and we’re especially grateful to the Chains of Command that support ideators like them being able to attend!

 

 

DC 1.0 ATHENIANS

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Our Athenians and our Panel from Athena DC 1.0!  (U.S. Navy Photo by John F. Williams)

AT1 MICHAEL PECOTA OF FRCMA DET PAX RIVER: SONAR TRANSDUCER COVER

At the end of AT1 Michael Pecota’s presentation, I think our esteemed panelist ONR Research Director Dr. Larry Schuette put it best:

“Does anyone else think it’s crazy that we don’t already have it capped!?”

AT1 Pecota’s winning idea is a $10 3D printed solution to a $2,000,000 problem.  And that problem is one near and dear to every aircrew and aviation maintenanceman’s heart: FOD…Foreign Object Damage.  The MH-60R (our favorite sub-hunting organic maritime helo) carries a very complex $2M sonar transducer to detect and track lurking submarines.  Unfortunately, when debris makes its way into the transducer, it takes our aviation electronics technicians and maintenance personnel a full hour just to take the cover off and clean house inside the transducer.  By reducing FOD through prevention, AT1 Pecota’s sonar transducer cover can save the Navy upwards of 1708 man hours a year, equivalent to $76,000 back in the Pentagon’s budget.  Sounds great!  Unless you are an enemy submariner, am I right?  His simple solution for a sonar transducer cap earned him the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.  

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AT1 Pecota receives the Admiral Sims Award from VADM Cullom. (U.S. Navy Photo by John F. Williams)

[Note, if you are an MH-60R bubba, looking to get one of these caps for your transducer, reach out and we’ll connect you with AT1 Pecota.  Let’s print these FOD-preventing bad-boys!]

LT JAMES LANDRETH OF NAVAL NUCLEAR POWER TRAINING UNIT, CHARLESTON SC: ADAPTIVE TESTING WITH MINERVA…THE ORACLE SUITE

Our second briefer carried the Athena torch with the mythology theme (woohoo!) LT James Landreth and his team pitched their innovative training/testing program “Minerva”, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, art, Nuclear Power, school, etc.  

Their team sees wide possibilities with the Navy Computerized Adaptive Test system, enabling them to predict with 85% accuracy a student’s success, generate customized or individualized training regimes, provide command leadership data-supported feedback on training systems, and help students avoid test failure.  Nice!

LT DANIEL WALKER OF NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND: AUGMENTED REALITY BRIDGE

Collisions at sea.  They happen.  I wish they didn’t.  LT Walker wants to make them stop happening.  LT Dan wants every ship to keep their sea legs.

As a former CRIC-ster, he is the project lead for OCEAN AUGMENTED REALITY.  The idea is to take all the great sensors and information we have available on a bridge: map data, radar contact information, depth charts, etc., and synthesize it and present it to our watchstanders through augmented reality glasses to reduce collisions.  LT Walker’s project came in second place at Athena DC 1.0.  What an exciting challenge!

LT TAKERU TAJIRI OF  LCS CREW 104: E-SIGNALMAN

This is the idea that made it difficult for me to get to sleep last night!

It doesn’t take an engineer to realize that our electromagnetic spectrum is becoming more and more crowded and contested.  Just ask LT Takeru Tajiri, a Poli-Sci major from the Juggernauts of LCS Crew 104 who wants to breathe new life into an old concept like Morse code by addressing how we communicate when all the radios are jammed, or when EMCON (emissions control) conditions have been established.  The idea is to shift over to the shorter wavelengths on the EM spectrum, using visible light, infrared and/or laser, to send communication data from ship to ship or aircraft, and potentially relay data via unmanned vehicles/balloons to go over the horizon.

I really want to see all the tinkerers out there in the Navy come together and rally around this one, because I just KNOW that some sailors (including midshipmen) out there can design and build this one in a weekend or two!  Who is with me?  Let’s do it!

HM2 JOSHUA CRANFORD OF ANNAPOLIS NAVAL HOSPITAL: PROJECT WATER ENGINE

Our final presenter of the evening had me chuckling as he started with a great pun about sourcing energy and electrical current from water in the form of hydrogen.

HM2 Joshua Cranford is ready for the Navy to lead the way in green energy!  Taking inspiration from the SECNAV’s Great Green Fleet initiative, HM2 wants to transition to H2… using hydrogen gas as a safer, climate friendly, and some day cost effective alternative fuel source to fossil fuels.  Citing many recent trends, including successful projects from the University of West Virginia, HM2 Cranford encouraged us to take the long look for sustainability in how we power our Fleet.  His presentation, while cut a little short due to timing, was still a gas!

CONCLUSION

Wow, what a night!  In the end VADM Cullom tied it all together by spotlighting the strategic link between deckplate ideation, and Design for Maritime Superiority released by the Chief of Naval Operations. Specifically, he cited the line of effort regarding High Velocity Learning.  He also explained that he wants to see Athena spread to every fleet concentration area.

“I have been in awe of what Athena has done…”

-VADM Phil Cullom (OPNAV N4)

We’re so thankful for our presenters for having the courage to share their ideas.  How exciting it is that we can have sailors from all across the US come and meet together to make positive change in our Navy.  Even though this was the first Athena event in DC, I’d say the “Bat Signal” is shining brightly here.  Again, we must thank the leadership who have helped empower deckplate thinkers.

In conclusion, for some, it has been a 10 year journey to get here!  And for others, it was just a few minutes of traffic around the DC Beltway.  But regardless of whether you are an idea creator or an idea catalyst, newcomer or serial thinker, wherever you are in the realm of Naval innovation, remember, as VADM Cullom said this evening about The Athena Project…

This is your forum!”

 

LT George Yacus is an MH-60S helo bubba, currently on shore duty to USNA at the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, where he provides communication and outreach for student academic support services, including training midshipmen in collaborative learning techniques, speed reading, time management, and more.  In his free time he connects with other creative thinkers around the Yard and Fleet, and he is always looking to find ways to introduce innovation communities to midshipmen, faculty, and staff, and especially the aviation community at USNA.

There are Athena events coming soon to fleet concentration areas around the globe, so if you’re in Mayport, San Diego, Yokosuka and Norfolk – get ready! If you’re interested in starting a movement of your own, find us on Facebook or Twitter (@athenanavy) or e-mail us at athenanavy@gmail.com!

Announcing ATHENA DC 1.0!

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Athena has just Leveled Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Innovation Jam Roundup

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By Dave Nobles

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

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

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

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

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

Innovation is about taking risks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LTJG McClenning and Dr. Russell

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

Second Place: LT Bill Hughes, OPNAV N96

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LT Hughes and Dr. Russell

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: LT Clay Greunke, SSC Pacific

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

Honorable Mention: OSC Erik Rick, Naval Beach Group ONE

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

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All of our presenters and panelists. America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Innovation Through Art

By: Dennis Smith

There are lots of books available on innovation. There are formalized processes and approaches. Training classes. Many, many things to ‘prime the mind’ to a state of innovation. Is that all? Is that the only route to being innovative at work, and really, the underlying notion of being creative?

In my day-to-day work I am fortunate to focus on innovation efforts. Sometimes the work is about process. Sometimes it’s about project management of that process. But luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to be creative.

I grew up with a healthy influence of art in my life. Generally speaking quite a few family members are quite talented at a few different mediums. This certainly informed my choices to pursue art then, as well as now, as a hobby.

The hobby got put to the side given demands of work, family and other hobbies like running. But a few years ago I rediscovered the joy of painting. What started as an opportunity to spend some quiet time in the evening has spread into an on-going opportunity to challenge myself, learn, take chances and ultimately increase the quality of my work – especially in regards to attempting to be innovative.

How so? What I’ve found, through my art are some key things:

  • Creativity has no limit – not a set amount, not finite. I don’t get exhausted composing new pieces to paint and working those pieces.
  • A painting is never done – it just gets abandoned. Someone told me that is a Picasso quote. Not sure if that’s true, but the message is.
  • Things never work out like you think they will – slight variation in brushes, paints, surfaces – those things have ripple effects on the outcome. Sometimes good, sometimes bad – but something new happens
Not into painting? Try sketching. Here's a quick sketch I did on a flight to San Diego (where I got to see Athena West 8.0!)

Not into painting? Try sketching. Here’s a quick sketch I did on a flight to San Diego (where I got to see Athena West 8.0!)

So what does this mean for my work? How does it apply? Does it?

Yes – my return to art has opened the aperture on what I see as possible. Why? How did that come about?

  • I’m much more willing to take chances – I dove back into art with faint memories of the tools, the techniques, etc. But I didn’t care – this was just a hobby, for me, on my own terms. So I start from that basis and just ‘go for it’ not worried about outcome. Along with that attitude I also post everything I do – good, bad, indifferent – on Facebook. I open up to a wider audience. Sure I get some off the obligatory likes and encouraging comments. But I also get some good reactions – especially over time as some of my FB friends have recognized I’m not looking for validation, rather I’m looking to share my art and let them react as they want. This is risky. It can bruise the ego (but for the most part is has been encouraging).
  • Every opportunity at work presents an opportunity to grow in my craft. This is the same as art. I have learned that sketching a subject ten times, painting it three times, etc. will result in variations in the product. The quality goes up with those iterations. It certainly creates an appreciation for iteration and adaptation. But it also creates a thread I can trace backwards – to see where improvements occurred, where the ‘a-ha’ moments were found, where a realization of what isn’t working presented itself.
  • I’m free of the ideas and product – in short I’m completely comfortable tossing a piece in the fire. For one thing I have produced so much art work that it needs to go somewhere! But seriously, I don’t marry myself to any one piece, regardless of time and effort. Practice over time lets me move on to something else much more easily – recognizing the quality of a piece isn’t a reflection of the quality of me is important. Super important for being secure and self-aware (both of potential and limitations).

Overall I’d strongly encourage pursuit of an art – it could be painting, sculpting, woodwork, quilting and on and on. But find some outlet for creative expression – you won’t run out of creative energy and that endless expenditure will build confidence in other ideas as well as your presentation of them.

Dennis Smith is a member of the Design Thinking Corps at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. His background is in User Experience Design.

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!

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!

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!

Athena Northwest 1.0 Roundup

By: LCDR Drew Barker

Athena NW 1

A week ago on Naval Base Kitsap – Bremerton, the Pacific Northwest became the hub of military innovation.

An amazing turnout for the inaugural Athena Project event in the Northwest! More than 50 people joined together in the old Chief’s Club beneath the Sam Adams Brewhouse to hear and support eight presenters who pitched ideas to improve their command, the waterfront and the Navy. Even though most left their jackets on because the WWII-era boiler in the building’s basement kicked the can earlier that morning, there were some hot ideas warming up that room, and for the first time at an Athena event, the stage was shared between four active duty and four DoD civilians. All of the presentations were truly inspiring and fueled a pervasive, let’s-make-it-happen, collaborative spirit.

Not only a great turnout from the Sailors ready to share the great ideas, but several attendees from industry rounded out the crowd. We were lucky to have friends from AMI International, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Naval Sea Systems Command – Keyport, and Community STEM Leaders share the Athena experience. Here’s how it all went down:

    ***Athena Northwest 1.0’s Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

Deck and Tile Glue to Balance the Budget – AOC Ralph Linkenhoker, USS JOHN C. STENNIS

Chief Linkenhoker kicked off the event with some jaw-dropping numbers on how to save the Navy some cold, hard cash on deck and tile glue. Using a better applicator tool and a Military Specification (MILSPEC) equivalent glue, this idea could cut the Navy’s cost by nearly 80 percent! He did his homework to demonstrate that the alternative was identical in application, drying time, bonding characteristics, hazmat handling and more. He stole the crowd and never looked back, running away with the Admiral Sims’ award for Intellectual Courage. Next step, engaging the DoD supply system to add the alternative while submitting a Military Cash Awards Program package on Chief’s behalf. Nice work!

AOC Linkenhoker breaking down tile glue costs for carrier maintenance.

AOC Linkenhoker breaking down tile glue costs for carrier maintenance.

Use of Commercial Cellular Technology to Interface with the Navy’s GIS – Steve McKee, PSNS & IMF

The first Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF) presenter was Steve McKee who showed there could be a relatively small gap to close between the use of commercial cellular technology and the Navy’s Geographic Information System. Who knew the Navy has a GIS?! In the same way Google Maps can tell you where the nearest pizza joint is, or FedEx can tell a truck’s location and inventory through the use of cellular technology and a GIS, the Navy could truly benefit from tying its GIS to a cellular interface for shore-based installations. Imagine being able to find a tool, component or base service simply by referencing your phone! The major obstacle identified involves conquering the cyber security element; however, McKee convincingly pointed those in attendance to a number of cost and time saving applications that show the benefits may truly outweigh the costs!

Tactical Administration – LT Jason Kardos, USS JOHN C. STENNIS

LT Kardos presented a very succinct requirements list for a modular, adaptable, electronic administrative software suite. Modular components would work like a suite of administrative apps that would synchronize and interact with one another, and operate in a stand-alone environment with periodic updates when the Internet was available. Individual modules or apps would handle everything from award generation, document management, and correspondence tracking to document control and evaluation submissions. His problem statement seem to resonate well with the audience—“The Navy has a system of forms control that is out of control!” His idea mapped a way forward to bring all administrative functions to a flexible, adaptable, single source structure. Unlike many of the suggestions posted in the Navy’s Reduction of Administrative Distractions efforts, he provided an actionable requirements set for software that can solve a myriad of administrative headaches.

3D Printing and Manufacturing – Kyle Morris, Naval Sea Systems Command

All the way from Keyport, Washington, Kyle introduced the audience to a long list of 3D printing applications for both ship-board and industrial use by providing the audience with photos of more than 30 cost-saving examples of 3D printing. The Sailors in the audience were interested in how to maintain the 3D printers if they were installed on a ship. Their questions beckon a follow up with the folks in San Diego and Hawaii on their attempts to integrate 3D printing onto ships and submarines to find out more!

3D Sensing, Modeling, and Augmented Reality for Shipboard Maintenance, Modernization, and Inspection – Eric Jensen, PSNS & IMF

Placing third at Athena Northwest, Jensen engaged the imaginations of the audience by describing how an instrument with two video cameras and some software can help map a space three dimensionally, allowing maintenance professionals on shore to conduct remote diagnosis, redesign, and the ability to purchase or fabricate solutions without having the ship tied to the pier. The installation or corrective actions would be programmed into glasses that provide an augmented reality overlay to simplify executing the repairs or modernization efforts. To leverage the strategic advantage of this technology, Jensen encouraged considering applications now and organizing thoughts on the benefits of this emergent technology. His ideas align well to the Augmented Reality workshop hosted by the Chief of Naval Operations’ Rapid Innovation Cell in Norfolk on Dec. 8 (Editor’s Note: Anyone else with ideas should consider attending the event; find out more here!).

Inspiring a Collaborative Workforce: Strengthening the Active Duty / DOD Civilian Team – ABF3 Jonte Johnson, USS JOHN C. STENNIS

Arguably the most motivational idea, ABF3 Johnson’s pitch was proposing not an innovation of technology but one of perspective. He passionately described a handful of ways to integrate collaboration and relationship building into new and existing programs. By making command picnics, MWR events, intramural sports, community and base service events, career fairs and departmental expos open and inclusive of all entities of the DoD/active duty team, we will achieve greater performance, efficiencies and innovation development. At the conclusion of his presentation, several inspired audience members shared with him how they will move his idea forward in their own spheres of influence. Certainly aligning with the values of the Athena project, he touched on the synergy created when a wide variety of perspectives combine to advance a common purpose. Looking forward to seeing these ideas in action for the next major maintenance availabilities!

Portable and Reconfigurable Job Kitting [Second Place] – Vince Stamper, PSNS & IMF

Finishing in second place, Stamper described a precarious scene familiar to many shipboard maintainers—standing unsteadily above a shaft while balancing a tool bag perilously on a ledge with one hand and taking readings or measurements with the other. The maintainer often has to sift through an unorganized tool bag that is difficult to strap down or hang up. Stamper then rolled out a highly-refined prototype of the perfect solution—a backpack that unzips to fold out flat, with hooks on the outside to easily hang it from any nearby pipe or angle iron, which reveals a perfectly organized tool board with tools strapped to slotted plastic panels. He is currently securing a Navy patent for the product, which will undoubtedly make life easier for an untold number of maintainers across the Navy (perhaps even the DoD)! Who wouldn’t love to see this idea on the fast track to the Navy supply system?!

Organizational Physiology – LCDR Drew Barker, USS JOHN C. STENNIS

Using several stories about how physiological measurements of a person’s state of stress can predict both operational and relational performance, LCDR Barker proposed an experiment to utilize wearable devices similar to a Fitbit to measure a team’s individual and collective stress levels through skin temperature, galvanic skin response and heart rate. The device would take measurements to show team and individual responses to both internal team dynamics and external challenges faced by the team. Observations, he argued, would lead to increased understanding of team dynamics, leadership and educational influences, and may assist in how we develop our people to achieve higher performance. The audience helped expand his idea to potentially benefit those with PTSD or better understand the struggle the military has with those who contemplate suicide. Watching the development and expansion of the idea in real-time was truly exciting for all engaged in the discussion!

The event reflected the hunger for innovation that many share in the DoD and attested to an abundant well of inspiring ideas that spring up from the deckplates. Everyone seemed to leave the venue with a sense of excitement and engagement to help make positive changes possible.

Stay tuned for the next event to come in late February, which promises to be even better with the integration of several other commands from Bremerton, Everett, Bangor and Keyport, as well as the involvement of more of the area’s community and academic leaders.

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!

For the most current information on Athena Northwest, visit the Athena NW facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/athenaprojectNW.

TANG – Innovation in the Big Leagues

By: LT Dave Nobles

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Last week, I was honored to attend Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored 2014 in San Francisco to share the story of Military Innovation with a broader audience.

The magazine invited the team from Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG), to present to a room full of forward thinkers from Silicon Valley and beyond who learned that the Navy not only has an appetite for fresh ideas and creative solutions to complex problems, but that there are movements afoot that are turning those ideas into action. Fittingly, the event was on Veteran’s Day and the conference center at San Francisco’s Metreon was filled with energy and excitement for TANG.

TANG is an initiative that brings together warfighters, decision makers and engineers to tackle problems using design thinking tools. Since 2011, Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has worked together with the international innovation consultancy and design firm IDEO and the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems to gain operator insight and transition cutting-edge programs rapidly to the Fleet. One of the amazing things that TANG brings to the table is speed – The team is able to swiftly move from Post-It Notes and a foam-core design at a workshop to a working prototype in a matter of months, and more importantly from a prototype to a functional system onto a Navy platform in less than two years. Lightning speed, in terms of the current acquisitions pipelines in the Department of Defense.

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STG1 Rory Satink negotiating a foamcore periscope at the TANG booth.

Through several events, chiefly focused in Anti-Submarine Warfare both on Submarines and Surface Ships, the initiative is beginning to gain traction in many other fields of the Navy. During the San Francisco visit for the conference, the TANG team was able to sneak away to IDEO’s Palo Alto offices to discuss what topics upcoming workshops will attack with Design Thinking and Creative Confidence. More to come on that.

No trip to the Bay Area is complete without dropping by to hang with the gang at IDEO - Big things coming in the future!

No trip to the Bay Area is complete without dropping by to hang with the gang at IDEO – Big things coming in the future!

Beyond the interest and respect that the initiative has gained within the Fleet, the invitation to present the TANG story alongside other top-tier innovative minds like Disney’s Ed Catmull, Lyft CEO John Zimmer and Samsung’s Vice President and Head of Design Dennis Miloseski marks a validation of the innovative work that the team has accomplished in the epicenter of corporate innovation, Silicon Valley.

The director of TANG, Johns Hopkins APL’s Josh Smith, in a conversation on stage with Fast Company’s Chuck Salter, talked about some of the initiatives TANG has put into play already on Submarines, like replacing a bulky $128K joystick for periscope control with an Xbox controller.

“These Sailors have great ideas and they want to make things better,” Smith said. “We give them the tools to unleash their creativity and watch the magic happen.”

Those tools are the unique brainstorming rules developed by IDEO that the team employs at every TANG workshop, bringing Sailors from all over the Fleet together to generate powerful new concepts for the warfighter. A couple of those ideas: Defer Judgement and Encourage Wild Ideas, are what allows a concept like bringing a video game controller into a real-world tactical environment to blossom and become a reality.

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Post-It Notes: The Design Thinking calling card.

And that’s just part of the overall value proposition for harnessing operators’ ideas. Smith envisioned partnerships that leverage the extensive amount of R&D funds major corporations invest in new technologies and connecting operators’ insights to develop intuitive and effective systems that increase warfighting efficiency.

While the TANG story is a compelling one, there are numerous projects afoot in the Department of Defense, including the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (and extended network, CRIC[x]), the Defense Entrepreneurship Forum and of course The Athena Project, the “Milicon Valley” movement doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Especially in the wake of the recent announcement by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work that a new DoD Innovation Initiative would be announced within the week. You can read more about that here.

One thing is for sure: There’s a lot of energy out there to try to make things better across the Navy and the DoD. Imagine what we could do when we’re all pushing in the same direction!

Whatever the future may hold for innovation in the military, it’s safe to say that TANG will be a big part of it. Post-It Notes and all.

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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 Six Roundup

By: LT Dave Nobles

Fugate Athena

On Friday, the sixth installment of San Diego’s Waterfront Athena took to the Coronado Brewing Company tasting room with some amazing ideas that will one day shape the Fleet.

This time, we had ten presenters from four different organizations in the San Diego area, all pitching great concepts geared toward making the Navy better, one innovation at a time. For more about how The Athena Project works, check this out.

There were plenty of familiar faces at the event – a huge contingent of engineers from SPAWAR’s System Center – Pacific were on the scene to take part in the ideation, and Dr. Ben Migliori talked to the crowd, more than 60 strong, about the upcoming Grassroots S&T/Athena collaboration workshop. More to follow on that very soon!

Then, we had some new friends joining in this time around. From IBM, Jim Pietrocini gave a quick pitch on Social Collaboration within the Navy, and the future of knowledge sharing. And, we were lucky to have our new friends from the innovative San Diego tech company, Interknowlogy, showcase some of their cool new technology. Representing the organization, Rodney Guzman helped us out by picking the first presenter, and then it was time to get down to the ideas.

Here’s how it all went down:

***Waterfront Athena Six’s Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

“The Effing Awesome 7000” – ENS Jason Benning & DCC(SW) Jake Wright, USS BENFOLD 

While the name is a bit squirrely, the concept is not. In fact, it’s one of those ideas that you hear and you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

On every ship at sea, each Sailor is a firefighter. In the unfortunate event that a fire were to break out aboard while underway, Sailors not only have to fight it, but they also have to figure out how to get rid of the firefighting water and residual smoke afterward.

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From the “why haven’t we been doing this for decades” department, DCC(SW) Jake Wright and ENS Jason Benning present the “Effing Awesome 7000”

With a simple prototype, these two Damage Control innovators demonstrated a ridiculous efficiency increase in desmoking efforts. Typically, Sailors hook up a RAM fan to what’s called an elephant trunk, or a huge hose to transport smoke from an interior space to the atmosphere topside. A RAM fan is rated at 2,000 Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) and is typically used to desmoke because it hooks up to the elephant trunks. However, a shipboard Box Fan, rated at a much higher capacity (3,200 CFM), has no way to hook up to an elephant trunk.

Until now.

With a prototype made out of a sheet of metal and a trash can, these two Sailors invented an adaptor that leverages the increased output capacity of the Box Fan with the elephant trunk, resulting in the ability to desmoke a shipboard space in nearly half the time. The effort was good enough to bring home the day’s biggest prize, and Benning & Wright guaranteed that videos of the “Effing Awesome 7000” would be postable soon!

Runner Up: The SPY Ladder – LTJG Adam Levine, USS BENFOLD

Once the crowd realized that BENFOLD’s Systems Test Officer wasn’t THAT Adam Levine, they were able to focus on his great idea.

Yes, folks, those are little zombie people cleaning that foamcore SPY array.

Yes, folks, those are little zombie people cleaning that foamcore SPY array.

With a few brackets and a removable ladder, LTJG Levine proposed an innovative solution for cleaning and repairing SPY arrays on Cruisers and Destroyers, thereby saving the Navy millions of dollars over the life of a ship. Each time a ship requires array cleaning or repair, the only present solution is to erect scaffolding for the duration of the maintenance period, which costs nearly $20K each time. With LTJG Levine’s innovative ladder, which would be affixed to rails at the top and bottom of each fragile array, Sailors could clean the arrays without scaffolding and effect repairs on the fly when the situation demanded it. Not only would the money savings be staggering, Sailors would finally have a solution to repair arrays at sea which would greatly enhance readiness in important mission areas like Ballistic Missile Defense.

Third Place: Jamming Drones – FC3 Josh Wade & FCSN Dallas Baranosky, USS BENFOLD

Sometimes innovations come to you when you’re engaged in focused thought, directing all your available brainwaves toward the creative effort. Then, there are times when you’re exhausted on a midwatch conversing with your buddies and you stumble across a great idea. In the case of these two Fire Controlmen, the latter is true.

The Midwatch: Hub of creative thought since 1775.

The Midwatch: Hub of creative thought since 1775.

Late one night, after a discussion of threat missiles and their associated seeker types, these Sailors suggested an innovative solution to a potential home-on-jam threat. In their proposal, a ship could launch an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with an organic jamming pod from its Vertical Launch System (VLS). Under shipboard control, the drone could then fly out a few miles from the ship and stay airborne for multiple hours, jamming any and all inbound missiles that might have a home-on-jam capability, causing the enemy missiles to fly at the drone instead of the warship. The pair is currently working with the team from SPAWAR to develop their concept.

Spray-on PCMS – CTTSN Lucas Amido, USS BENFOLD

In the day’s first presentation, CTTSN Amido proposed a method to save time and maintenance costs by replacing ships’ stick-on radar cross-section reducing countermeasure systems by creating an aerosol version of the coating. In his two-part system, Sailors could spray on a coating that would serve the same purpose as the Navy’s Passive Countermeasure System (PCMS), then seal it with a second solution.

Shipboard Robotics Club- FC2 Mike Owen & IC3 Katie Rogers, USS BENFOLD

Many of today’s enlisted ratings require technical skill sets to deal with extraordinarily complex systems, and the Navy is currently trending toward more advanced systems that will demand even greater technical acumen. As a fun way to sharpen these skills, FC2 Owen and IC3 Rogers proposed the creation of a Robotics Club onboard ships. Sailors, both enlisted and officer, could work together to build robots and see their creations square off against other commands and community clubs while developing a skill set that will serve tomorrow’s Fleet well.

Pigeons for Bandwidth – Dr. Sunny Fugate, SPAWAR SCC PAC

In what was certainly the most entertaining pitch of the day, Dr. Fugate delivered the ultimate innovative communications solution to solve data latency issues at sea and resolve challenges that Sailors face in low bandwidth: Pigeons. Backed by compelling data, Dr. Fugate proposed using trained pigeons to transfer data packages between units. Ok, ok: There are some challenges, sure – like training the pigeons, attaching the data to pigeons, not losing the pigeons, etc. that could result in increased data latency (or loss of critical information). However, Dr. Fugate’s pitch brought some welcome technology-driven levity to Athena.

"Just one word: Pigeons."

“Just one word: Pigeons.”

eyePARTS – LSSN Vashti Kronaizl, USS BENFOLD

Often times, the Navy’s supply system can be a source of frustration for not only Logistics Specialists, but any Sailor trying to find that specific part of a system or subsystem. As a solution to this problem, LSSN Kronaizl proposed building a visual database of all parts associated with systems to enable a camera-based program to search for systems based on a photo of a specific part. While there are several challenges to this system, like differentiating gasket sizes and identifying small parts that are used in multiple systems, LSSN Kronaizl’s vision for the future of the Supply would make Sailors’ lives a whole lot easier!

Super Commos- LTJG James Martin, USS BENFOLD

BENFOLD’s Fire Control Officer explained the importance of the shipboard communications suite to a variety of missions that ship’s conduct, from Ballistic Missile Defense to Air Warfare to Visit, Board, Search & Seizure. As such, he proposed that Communications Officers onboard ships should be second-tour division officers because of the relative importance of communications, both voice and data, to the mission. LTJG Martin proposed that, if altering the division officer sequencing plan was a bridge too far, Communications Officers should at least be afforded the opportunity to attend Communications Officer School prior to reporting to their commands. Currently, there is no such requirement.

Virtual Flight Academy – Flack McGuire

In a pitch right from the pages of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Flack McGuire talked about a way to determine the best pilot candidates BEFORE they arrived at Flight School. He likened the way that we find pilots in the military to hiring an inexperienced quarterback to helm an NFL team. With exercises and tests given to prospective pilots at younger ages, Flack’s Virtual Flight Academy aims to identify the best qualities for future pilots before selection, ensuring that the Aviation Community is stocked with the most talented personnel possible.

3M Billets – HM3 Michael Gardner, USS GREEN BAY 

The Navy’s Maintenance and Material Management (3M) program often elicits a visceral response from those that have to use it every day, and HM3 Gardner is no exception. Since the 3M program is extremely admin-intensive, HM3 Gardner proposed forming a separate division onboard ships specifically to manage the various maintenance actions taking place all over the ship. These Sailors’ primary duties would be to schedule preventative maintenance, ensure that maintenance requirement cards were always up-to-date, generate reports and implement administrative changes to the maintenance index pages. While the program was not specifically designed to have a separate division maintain it, the increasing administrative burden that comes with 3M makes HM3 Gardner’s solution quite realistic.

At the event, we recorded each pitch, and once the video has been edited, we’ll post those to the Athena Facebook page and right here on this blog.

With so many great ideas, it was awesome to see the real-time innovation and collaboration between Sailors and Scientists that happens at an event like this. It’s both inspiring and encouraging for Military Innovation that The Athena Project continues to grow. While the West Coast iteration of The Athena Project continues to march along, regions are throwing together Athena Projects all over the place! Just last month, the first-ever Athena East took Old Dominion University by storm, and next month The Athena Project will be visiting the great state of Washington as Athena Northwest gets in on the action.

As always, we’re truly humbled by the support that this initiative has received both from the fleet and from industry. It’s amazing to think that what started as an unfortunately-named experiment called WikiWardroom has blossomed into a stage for Sailors to have their voices heard!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this event and we can’t wait to see you guys at our next one! And of course, a very special thank you goes out to our friends at Coronado Brewing Company for helping us host this awesome event.

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!