Athena Far East 3.0 Is Coming!

By CDR Michele Day

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Athena Far East 3.0 is this Friday!

Athena is coming back to Japan!

This Friday, April 21st, Sailors from all around Seventh Fleet are bringing their ideas  to the Submarine Sanctuary from 1400-1600.

Have you heard about the Athena Project and wonder what it is all about?
Do you have a BIG idea to make your command or the Navy better?

This event is the third Yokosuka Chapter event for The Athena Project, and whether you have an idea and need a stage or have passion and want to connect with like-minded innovators trying to make change, Athena Far East 3.0 is the place for you!

The Athena Project was created onboard USS BENFOLD in 2012  and now has 12 Active Chapters from Yokosuka to Mayport, and many concepts from our events have gone on to prototyping and development.  The goal of Athena is to make the Navy better by developing solutions to problems that Sailors see in the Fleet – anything from developing new systems or retooling old systems,  to new training plans, to fixing “broken” programs.  By harnessing deckplate innovations and creating a cadre of forward-thinking, creatively confident Sailors, we are paving the way for the Fleet of tomorrow.

Named after the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena was a shrewd companion to heroes on epic endeavors. Which is why The Athena Project network works hard to help you push your great ideas forward. Because sometimes, that can be quite the epic endeavor.

We WANT you to join us – even if you just want to listen!

We WANT YOU TO PRESENT AN IDEA!  You can present as a team or by yourself.  The presentation materials and aids are also yours to decide – the  only rule is NO PowerPoint.

If you have an idea you want to present at ATHENA Far East, shoot us an e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com.

ATHENA belongs to YOU – COME MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

 

Athena DC 2.0 Is Coming!

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Are you going to Sea Air Space 2017 and looking for a way to connect with deckplate innovators across the Navy and Marine Corps? Are you in the DC area and want to check out what an Athena Project event is all about? Do you have a big idea that you want to pitch to connect with hard-charging folks who can make it happen?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then have we got a deal for you!

The Athena Project is hosting it’s second DC Chapter event during the Sea Air Space Expo at the Irish Whisper on Monday, April 3rd at 7PM!

Since early 2013, Athena pitch events have been a great way to connect to the Defense Innovation Network and hear (or pitch) some groundbreaking ideas to make things better! These events have come to be described as Shark Tank meets TED Talks and give grassroots innovators a voice by giving them the stage for five minutes to pitch their big ideas. After five minutes of Q&A from the audience and our esteemed panel, the crowd will vote on ideas based on Idea Quality, Actionability, and Presentation to crown the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage to the top concept.

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Presenters and Panelists from last year’s Athena DC 1.0 at Sea Air Space.

Last year’s winner was a game-changing sonar transducer cover, designed by our Sims Winner and 3D printable, that’s saving money and maintenance hours today. We’ll even get an update on its progress at the event!

The Athena Project has 12 Active Chapters from Yokosuka to Mayport, and many concepts from our events have gone on to prototyping and development. As an example, check out this concept that emerged from the Athena West Chapter that went on to win last year’s Innovation Jam on its way to improve surface ships’ gunnery!

There’s still time to slide into a presentation slot for Monday’s event if you’ve got a big idea that you want to see happen! Just send us a note at athenanavy@gmail.com if you want to present!

If you just want to come hear the pitches and network with like-minded catalysts, that’s cool too! Just swing by the Irish Whisper and join us! Registration always helps (you can do that here) or just come as you are and be part of the movement.

Let’s go fast.

 

2048… The Magic Number

By LCDR Kristen Wheeler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Athena Northwest 4.0 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time: 1330-1500

Attire: Business casual

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

Admission is free and open to anyone and everyone!

POC:     LT Daniel Conley

512-981-7399

Athena Monterey 1.0 Roundup

By LCDR Kristen Wheeler

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Monterey, California -truly a mecca for Naval Innovation – held its first Athena Project Pitch Event back in August at the London Bridge Pub. In a room with a view overlooking historic Monterey bay, six presenters from both Naval Postgraduate School and Defense Language Institute took the stage and brought their big ideas out into the light of day. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and academics from a myriad of backgrounds filled the room not only with their presence, but also their enthusiasm and curiosity.

CDR Andy Newsome, who brilliantly brought two massive commands together and then organized Athena Monterey 1.0, emceed the event. Volunteers from the audience pulled names out of the cup for the order of the presenters… and then were subsequently awarded an Athena Monterey 1.0 custom-designed coin which was 3D-printed at NPS’s Maker Space, Robo Dojo. The presenters then each had 5 minutes to present their idea and then another 5 minutes to answer audience questions.

The evening proved to be electric as compelling insights unfolded one right after another both from the presenters and those who came to support. Here is a quick encapsulation of the concepts presented.

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LT Todd Coursey (NPS) – Maker Box

Navy LT Todd Coursey, a heavyweight in the Navy’s additive manufacturing and Maker Space movement , started the evening off by capturing our attention by bringing in a box about twice the size of a large shoe box. His concept aimed at enabling senior officer and enlisted leadership exposure to advanced digital manufacturing and coding capabilities.   Todd said that this generation is growing up in an environment where digital capabilities have become democratized to the point where seven year olds in third world nations can be taught to create micro-controllers.  Curiosity piqued, he explained to the wide-eyed audience that this box is actually a portable additive manufacturing tool that has the potential to disrupt coding and digital manufacturing education easily and widely, opening up military and civilians to endless possibilities when coupled with a cohesive, creative, and cost-effective curriculum. By giving leaders a three to five day dose of the realm of the possible when it comes to current technology and how easy it is to employ.

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Maj. Nick AionaAka (NPS) – Leadership Reimagined

Nick AionaAka delivered Athena’s first Marine Corps pitch, bringing to the crowd a very relevant and timely idea that will flip collaboration and leadership shortfalls head over heels and into the future with wings. A big believer in organization culture as the root of all innovative commands, Nick offers that giving units or unrelated groups of DoD personnel take a tactical pause and step out of the forest so they can see the trees, could prove just the ticket to help us experience and discuss key pillars such as trust, communication, collaboration, connectedness, and other cultural nuances that are necessary for next generation ingenuity to thrive. But Nick also states that stepping out of the forest proverbially can happen by stepping in an actual forest. Getting back into nature and around a campfire are the best ways to remind ourselves that authentically connecting and learning from one another has a great deal of meaning when we are doing in our most simplest environments.

Peter Ateshian (NPS) – Femto Satellite Communications

NPS Professor Peter Ateshian left the audience in awe when he explained how Femto-Satellites could rewrite the books on how we communicate. With his son by his side, Peter brought a prototype of an actual size satellite… which was ridiculously small by the way… and passed it around the audience so we could truly understand just how disruptive and enhancing this technology could be. Not only can these miniature satellite carry a signal which provide timing and position, they work in our atmosphere, in space… and can float in the ocean. Lasting 6-8 weeks, the mini-sats cost a meager $30 a pop and the capabilities that can be provided are absolutely endless.

Cpt Sarah Martin (DLI) – Aptitude Targeting

Over from Defense Language School, Army CPT Sarah Martin followed up next and presented a solution set that could increase effective recruiting of amazing foreign language instructors – The “Unicorns.” Finding exceptional language instructors at DLI is no easy task… hunting needles in haystacks, especially for obscure languages. Sarah believes we can not only find a wider selection of instructor candidates to teach our Sailors, Soldiers, Airman and Marines, but they can be found with lesser manpower… simply by harnessing the power of social media. Using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… even Snapchat and Instagram can be used to reach specific audiences… namely language instructors in this case. By capitalizing on public demographic information that users provide to social media sites, DLI can include this into their marketing and recruiting strategies. Targeting ads through Facebook, for example, can cost very little… as much as $0.24 a click… sometimes event less. And without being invasive, it allows people who possess the skillsets needed to teach a language to find out about employment opportunities at DLI they might not have otherwise known about. Sarah’s idea wowed the audience as she was peppered with questions and idea riffs following her presentation.

CPO John-Mark Allen (DLI) – Realizing the Paperless Navy

Chief John-Mark Allen stirred the crowd by asking anew the question every person in the Department of Defense has pondered at some point… What ever happened to the notion of a paperless Navy? His question was has been asked for over 18 years now since it was first proposed in 1998. And though there are some places where we have gone paperless, for example using NSIPS to route leave documents, we still have no shortage of blue and red folders plaguing commands. Breaking the old paradigm requires a culture shift, and Chief Allen proposes posing an internal “tax” on paper and toner. By increasing the price of paper and toner, commands will be pushed to adopt to myriad of other solutions for electronically routing documents.

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LT Jesse Iwuji (NPS)– NASCAR Recruiting
**Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage**

Our last presenter, LT Jesse Iwuji, immediately captured the audiences undivided attention by taking the stage in his NASCAR racing gear. As it turns out, we have within our Navy ranks a bonafide NASCAR driver… and one of two African American drivers in the circuits. When he’s not the Director of Student Services at NPS, Jesse hits the track. Jesse proposed using his influence within the NASCAR racing fan base to promote and recruit for the Navy. Because he is the only active duty driver and a minority on the circuit, Jesse attracts the camera nearly every single race. He garners an average of $1.5 million dollars worth of airtime, which is actively promotes the Navy because he’s a proud Surface Warfare Officer. However, there is more potential. The Navy could easily capture an even bigger ROI by being the only service in history to sponsor a car driven not only by their own service member, but an active duty one at that. It’s a no brainer… which is why Jesse won the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage.

Plans for Athena Monterey 2.0 and updates on our presenters coming soon… so stay tuned!

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.