Waterfront Athena is a Week Away!

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Greetings, Athenians!

On May 30th in the warm confines of San Diego, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) will be hosting the fifth Waterfront Athena Project event at Societe Brewing Company.  We’ll gather at noon and kick off presentations after everyone’s had a chance to mingle and grab their beverage of choice.

Everyone is invited to this casual forum, whether it’s just to attend and vote on Sailors’ projects, or to present an idea of your own. For those of you new to this site, or unfamiliar with Athena, here’s a rundown of how it works:

The Athena Project is basically a Shark Tank-meets-TED Talks event that showcases deckplate ideas and innovations from the Fleet, giving Sailors a voice and connecting concepts with scientists and engineers from industry who may be able to help them come to life. Presenters are given five minutes to make their pitch – usually including the problem they’ve identified, a creative solution to remedy it, and a plan to make it happen. After that pitch, there’s a five-minute question-and-answer session from the Athenians in the crowd, who then vote on the ideas based on Idea Quality, Actionability and Presentation. At the end, we’ll tally the votes and crown the winner of the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage – a title that earns Athena support to make the idea happen over the next quarter.

For pitches, prototypes and visuals (posters, pamphlets, etc.) are certainly encouraged, but there’s NO POWERPOINT allowed. And for anyone interested in pitching an idea, registration is still open, just e-mail ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil or message us on Facebook or Twitter (@AthenaNavy).

Automated celestial navigation - coming soon to a ship near you!

Automated celestial navigation – coming soon to a ship near you!

Ideas from previous Athena events are really taking off, which is part of the magic of The Athena Project.  Several concepts have been prototyped by our friends at Lockheed Martin, SPAWAR and the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies to name a few, and we have a few ideas that have gained funding to be created, including CosmoGator – a FY15 CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell project – and the Optical Database and Information Network (ODIN), the winning idea from Waterfront Athena Three. Other Sims Award-winning concepts, such as PartnerShips from Waterfront Athena Four, are going live soon.

Unlike some innovation initiatives in the Department of Defense and beyond, ideas pitched at Athena actually go somewhere, and the bridges that we’ve built through this project are strong enough to support the wait of a bevy of brilliant ideas to come. For Waterfront Athena Five, we’ll have boatloads (pun intended) of folks from cutting-edge technology, energy, academic and defense organizations in attendance, so who knows: Maybe your idea will be then next to take off!

That said, the greatest part about The Athena Project is not the shiny widgets that come from it, but rather the growing culture of creativity fostered through our Athenians. It’s always been the goal of Athena to build a cadre of creative (sometimes disruptive) thinkers who can solve problems in unique ways. With this cadre of bold, forward thinkers, we can make the Navy better.

As John Ruskin once famously said: “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” 

So, I’ll leave you with a call to arms: Come join us! Present your big ideas (or your small solutions that have been hiding in plain sight) and be a part of the movement for a more innovative Fleet. If you don’t have an idea this time around, that’s cool too: At least some and connect for some creative thought, awesome ideas and great food and drink!

See you there!

 

 

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Getting Back To It!

By: LT Dave Nobles

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It’s been a cool month since our last event and The Athena Project is back!  During our time away, there’s been quite a lot of traction on several of our projects, both from the last event and our previous shindigs. Let’s take a quick moment to bring everyone up to speed by highlighting the progress on a few of the projects:

The Admiral Sims Winners! PartnerShips!

PartnerShips: The Admiral Sims Award-winning idea from Waterfront Athena 4 is well underway. Amidst a flurry of interest, we’ve had loads of innovators sign up for this networking program, designed to connect creative and industrious Sailors with scientists and engineers at various DoD and industry firms. The prototype Web site is almost off the ground and the PartnerShips team has been working diligently to pair up the folks who’ve already signed up. Once our first participants receive their introductory e-mails, the flood gates will open up for tours, updates and networking opportunities that will surely pave the way to the next batch of great ideas to make our Fleet better! Registration is still open and ongoing! If you’re interested in participating, either as a Sailor or as a Scientist, e-mail the team at navypartnerships@gmail.com.

BENFOLD University CLEP Courses:  Leveraging the strength of an awesome program and the supercharged intelligence of some enterprising Sailors, this idea from Waterfront Athena 3 is getting some serious legs. BENFOLD University is a program aboard USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) that gives Sailors a chance to teach their shipmates about any topic that they’re interested in – because learning is cool. Since it’s inception, there have been classes on photography, Spanish, welding, writing and Japanese, but a few enterprising Sailors have put together a curriculum to teach Algebra and Calculus to prepare their fellow surface warriors to take CLEP courses for college credit. The finely-tuned course will begin aboard the ship in April.

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CosmoGator: The second-place finisher at Waterfront Athena 3, CosmoGator is a candidate for funding from the Office of Naval Research in the new batch of programs from the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.  The CosmoGator team is knee-deep in preparation for upcoming cavalcade of briefings to a series of ONR Subject Matter Experts, a cadre of Flag Officers and ultimately the CNO himself at the end of April all in an effort to bring automated celestial navigation to reality.  For newcomers to this blog or The Athena Project, CosmoGator will provide precision fix data to ships’ Inertial Navigation Systems by taking a snapshot of astronomical bodies in the sky and using a database of starts to accurately turn multiple lines of position into fixes that can enable ships to continue missions in the event of a GPS outage. The team has been working with NASA, SPAWAR and the Naval Observatory to transform vision into action.

Software Systems Integration: Another project from Waterfront Athena 4 was a vision to integrate typical Sailor functions like maintenance, replacement part ordering and training into one intuitive system on a mobile device. This type of idea has been kicked around various circles for some time, and was a running theme of a few projects at the last event. Well, our friends at Lockheed Martin share the vision for the functional alignment and integration of these systems and have reached out to the Athena team to begin work toward a solution to the frustrating problems plaguing Sailors on the deckplates. A meeting is scheduled next month to discuss the way forward.

ODIN: The winning idea from Waterfront Athena 3 is alive and well. The sharp Fire Controlmen who presented the idea and the geniuses at SPAWAR have been volleying optical information back and forth over the last quarter and are nearing completion of a prototype database and algorithm to leverage the data from EO devices for surface ship recognition and classification. The team is planning another session to synthesize the data and push the project along later this month.

Tankless Water Heaters: This idea from Waterfront Athena 4 caught the immediate attention of representatives from iENCON that were in attendance. Currently, water is heated onboard ships within two 430-gallon tanks, which is a huge drain on energy usage. In this project’s vision, water would be heated on-demand, by way of heating mechanisms within the piping, before the water gets to the end user. The first stage in getting a project like this running is measurement of actual energy consumption, and the team has acquired Fluke meters with a data logger from SPAWAR to gain the data necessary to move toward the development of the new heaters. The team plans to meter the two electronic heaters for the tanks and the two hot water pumps to conduct a life cycle analysis to determine the simple payback. Building on the data already obtained from other DDGs, the team has determined that the cost to operate the current heaters is upwards of $150K and that the new system will save the Navy over $100K per ship, per year.

And that’s just a few of the many ideas that are in various stages of development right now. Other popular ideas are gaining headway as well, like the employment of MILES technology for Navy training and the outfitting of crew-served weapons gunners with Heads-Up Displays. The cool part about all of that, is that despite the fact that these ideas didn’t win the Sims Award at their events, the driven Sailors that pitched them are still committed to making them happen. Kind of like how a singer doesn’t have to win American Idol to grab a record deal, if an idea from a Waterfront Athena Event is good enough and it’s champion is passionate enough, the Navy can still get better.

The future is going to hold some pretty cool stuff for Athena, too: From Design Thinking workshops to field trips and join-ups to focused ideation efforts called Athena Spears, The Athena Project will be growing beyond the quarterly waterfront sessions into a something much bigger, all while staying true to the vision of creating a cadre of creative thinkers focused on making a stronger Fleet for tomorrow.

More to follow on the Future of The Athena Project soon… Stay tuned!

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

Like us on Facebook and follow @AthenaNavy on Twitter! Interested in creating an Athena Project of your own? Message us!

Waterfront Athena Roundup

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Last Thursday afternoon at Ballast Point Brewing’s Little Italy location, creative minds from across the Navy and Industry got together to share some big ideas.

This was our fourth Waterfront Athena Event and we had our best turnout yet! There were about 75 innovators in attendance in the San Diego sun, braving the elements (and the occasional noise of planes passing overhead) to hear nine presentations aimed at making the Navy better. For a quick rundown of how Athena works, check here.

From the Navy side, 20 commands were represented, including the Chief of Naval Operations’ Rapid Innovation Cell, a cadre of young Sailors and junior officers across designators and communities that are eager to create a new culture within the Navy. With tremendous support from San Diego’s Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC), many other young officers took in the event, geared to spread the culture of creativity across the fleet.

Beyond the Navy complement at Waterfront Athena, civilians from industry, academia and government joined in the action. In attendance, we had our old friends from the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies, SPAWAR and Harris Corporation, but also new friends from Lockheed Martin, CUBIC Corporation, Navy Undersea Warfare Center,iENCON, NASA, GovAlert and more. It truly was an amazing network of thinkers, doers, dreamers and makers and made for our best event ever.

Some of the Waterfront Athena crowd, escaping the sun and listening to the pitches.

Some of the Waterfront Athena crowd, escaping the sun and listening to the pitches.

In addition to the nine great ideas that our Athenians presented, the audience was treated to a halftime display of 3D printing and advancements in the development of LT Bill Hughes’ project from the last Waterfront Athena, CosmoGator, from Matt Reyes of the NASA Ames Research Center. Reyes showcased low cost solutions using additive manufacturing. And, just to show how quick and easy the system truly is, Reyes printed a iPhone 4 case on site.

Matt Reyes showcasing a possible new direction for CosmoGator.

Matt Reyes showcasing a possible new direction for CosmoGator.

But enough of who was there, let’s get down to the ideas:

Idea 1: Veterans Emloyment Transition Software – FCC(SW) Christopher Roberts

While attending transition courses in preparation for the plunge into Corporate America, FCC Roberts became frustrated with the current catalog of tools that veterans could use to find the right job and decided to take matters into his own hands.  He pitched a program, the Veterans Employment Transition Software (VETS) wherein the system is stood on its head: Instead of veterans finding jobs, the jobs find the veterans. In his vision, a veteran would input personal information and experience, and the VETS program, with participation from potential employers, would more efficiently pair up jobs with the seeker. Metrics like primary duties, collateral duties, education, sea/shore commands and performance evaluations would lend to smarter placement. To FCC Roberts, there’s no reason why our experienced military servicemembers should be confined to a job that didn’t suit them and allow them to use their unique talents to flourish.

Idea 2: Re-Usable Packaging – LTJG Isaac Wang

LTJG Wang, a three-time Athena presenter, partnered with entrepreneurs in the San Diego area to propose a smarter way to store critical parts and devices, prevent dangerous electro-static discharge and save money using new storage containers and reverse logistics. He proposed using demonstrated products and processes that have already saved many leading-edge businesses in today’s Fleet.

Idea 3: Tankless Water Heaters – ENS Tomas Baker

Our Third Place finisher and Oregon State University graduate proposed a smarter way to heat the water that ships use. As currently designed, Navy ships are highly inefficient in the way they heat and distribute water throughout a ship. Almost 1,000 gallons of water are constantly heated and pumped through thousands of feet of piping waiting to be used, whether the crew is sleeping at home or washing dishes at sea. Baker proposed utilizing commercially-available “Flash Hot Water Heaters” to instantly heat water without the need for a water tank. These systems eliminate intrusive piping and save boatloads of energy, money, and maintenance man-hours. Engineers from iENCON immediately connected with Baker’s concept and began working right then and there on a plan for testing across the waterfront.

Idea 4: 3D Printing used for Material Validations – CMDCM(SW) Sean Snyder

A game-day entry, CMDCM Snyder proposed using visual recognition software resident on mobile devices to revolutionize equipment validations and parts replacements for shipboard systems. CMC Snyder considered naval application of this technology after watching his kids use image recognition applications. With more and more digital natives joining the Fleet, he sees fertile ground for Sailors to use their cameras to take a picture of a broken piece of gear, filter it through a local database to recognize the system and part, then forwarding the image to a shore-based or local site where the faulty part could be printed using additive manufacturing. In his vision, pictures of equipment could be catalogued and used to help ensure that maintenance men get the right part every time.

Idea 5: MILES technology for Navy Training – ETC(SW) Michael Lewisson

The runner up for the Admiral Sims Award, ETC Lewisson proposed the use of the Army’s Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) for shipboard training. Currently, anti-terrorism/force protection drills are conducted using rubber weapons and generally have Sailors yelling “bang, bang!” at each other to simulate an engagement. ETC joked that this system was awesome on the playground, but doesn’t have a place onboard a warship. By using MILES, which is a super-whamadyne laser tag system, trainers and trainees would be able to assess multiple metrics, including shot count, accuracy and decision-making delay to improve overall training. Further, Lewisson said that the system would lend itself well to integration across training teams, such as medical, damage control and combat systems. The MILES system is already a program of record and as such, would only be marginally difficult to transition to the surface fleet, Lewisson said. Representatives from the CUBIC Corporation in attendance agreed with Lewisson’s vision and are already working to find a way to incorporate the system for shipboard use.

FCC Roberts pitching his VETS idea

FCC Roberts pitching his VETS idea

Idea 6: Virtual Reality for CIC Watchstanders – GMC(SW) Kyle Zimmerman

An idea from a recent “Learn Warfighter Needs Workshop” at SPAWAR (you can read all about it in our summary here) GMC Zimmerman, in concert with FCC(SW) Barry Adams and SPAWAR Scientists dreamed up a system whereby watchstanders in a ship’s Combat Information Center (CIC) could make use of existing virtual reality technology and the ship’s optical sensors to assist in building a recognized maritime picture of all other surface ships in a warship’s vicinity. Todd Richmond of USC’s Institute of Creative Technologies and Josh Kvavle of SPAWAR joined forces with GMC Zimmerman during his pitch, lending the power of the brilliant minds at their organizations to Zimmerman’s lofty vision.

Idea 7: Software Systems Integration – CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel

Formerly of the aviation community, the newly minted Cryptologic Technician – Technical pitched the need to adopt innovations from the aviation side of the house to improve software integration as it related to maintenance, replacement part ordering, administration, training and more. CTT2 Nothnagel proposed one streamlined system on a mobile device to change the way maintenance is done in the Navy. Maintenance workers would have their lives simplified and it would allow for optimized tracking of maintenance hours and decrease the need for frivolous spot checks, Nothnagel said. The project caught the eye of CRICster LT Rollie Wicks who has been working a similar project on the East Coast for his community. The two connected and are working to find a way forward for Nothnagel’s idea.

Idea 8: Logic Training for Sailors – ET2(SW) Erika Johnson

In her pitch, ET2 Johnson proposed teaching courses on logic to enhance Sailor decision making.  Johnson, a two-time Athena presenter, proposed testing the effect of her concept on a single surface ship – measuring the improvement in Sailors’ logic skills prior to and following a series of instructional sessions on the discipline. If successful, Johnson would pursue earlier implementation of the courses, in basic training for enlisted Sailors and officers alike. Teaching logic to Sailors would not only assist them in tactical and operational-level decision making, but also off-duty decision making, potentially reducing the number of destructive decisions that can sometimes plague junior Sailors.

Idea 9: PartnerShips – LTJG Kaitlin O’Donnell and LT Dave Nobles

Last but not least, the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage goes to regular contributors to this blog and Waterfront Athena Events, LTJG O’Donnell and LT Nobles. The pair proposed starting a website-based system that would serve to connect Sailors and Scientists to build a foundation of knowledge between the two sides, bridging knowledge gaps and fostering new networks and alliances. After a hugely successful “Learn Warfighter Needs Workshop” between SPAWAR and USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) wherein Sailors and Scientists connected through learning, design thinking and ideation.

The Admiral Sims Winners! PartnerShips!

The Admiral Sims Winners! PartnerShips!

With such a strong event, the two officers developed a way to lay a base-coat of continuous learning between the two sides, and proposed that the growth of familiarity could potentially lead to incredible ideas and increased job satisfaction. On the proposed website, a Sailor or Scientist would fill out a survey with questions on experience level, education and interests, and the PartnerShips team would link up users for a professional “pen pal-like” relationship. Over the course of the PartnerShip, the two parties would host monthly tours, exchange weekly e-mails and eventually attend join-ups to strengthen ties, all while feeding their experiences back to the PartnerShips homepage. The two did not waste any time waiting for the site to be built, though. They had signup sheets for Sailors and Scientists that were interested in the program to fill out on site. In the initial salvo, over 20 innovators signed up!

At The Athena Project we’re constantly humbled by the support that our 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 by tremendous companies and makers from across the private sector and academia. Thank you to everyone who participated in this event and we can’t wait to see you guys at our next one!

If you can’t make it out to San Diego, then break down some doors and start an Athena Project of your own! We’re more than happy to help any organization that wants to use the Athena construct as a means to slingshot ideas into the stratosphere!

Stay tuned – We aren’t stopping anytime soon and we’ve got some big plans coming for Athena to help further build the growing wave of creativity in the Navy!

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 ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil!