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.

 

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Announcing the First Ever Innovation Jam!

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An event coming to San Diego next month aims to slingshot ideas from The Athena Project, among all other innovation initiatives into prototyping orbit.

Co-sponsored by SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and The Athena Project, the first-ever Innovation Jam will bring together engaging presenters in the realm of innovation and engineering, showcase leading edge technology currently under development at SSC Pacific and conclude with an Innovation Championship, wherein seven candidate ideas will compete for $100K in Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funding for prototyping.

On March 16th, the event will kick off at 0900 onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2) and feature a great lineup of speakers. Beyond the flag officer keynote address, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold (founder of Intellectual Ventures and former CTO of the Microsoft Corporation) and Dr. Maura Sullivan (Director of the Secretary of the Navy’s Task Force Innovation) will give engaging talks around the topic of innovation to the Sailors and engineers in attendance.

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USS ESSEX will be the site for the first ever Innovation Jam. 

Following a poster session at lunch, with amazing technologies from SSC Pacific on display, the focus will shift from theory and development to the ideas of seven Sailors, competing for the grand prize of prototype and transition funding for their idea.

Leading up to the event, each presenter will be matched with a subject matter expert in the technology their concept employs from SSC Pacific, and have worked the fine details and science behind their concepts, awaiting the Innovation Jam to unveil their refined ideas.

For the event, past The Athena Project, The Hatch and Tactical Advancements For the Next Generation (TANG) concepts will be featured, including ideas showcasing ideas imagining uses for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, redesigning warfare areas, and changing the way we view navigation. A panel of senior leaders at SSC Pacific, ONR and beyond will evaluate each concept and choose a winner from the group of phenomenal ideas.

The event will be open to all Active Duty personnel in the San Diego region. The Web site for registration will be live soon, so stay tuned to The Athena Project for updates. For more information, reach out through The Athena Project Facebook page, or e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com

Finally, a true platform to transition pure concepts from the deckplates exists, and we hope that you’ll join us for this important event!

Athena South East 1.0 Roundup

By: LT Kristen Wheeler

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On October 29th, six Sailors took the stage at CoLabJax, a maker’s space… “Where Ideas Take Flight” and partook in the first ever Athena Project South East event. Selected from over 34 idea submissions from The Hatch, the Secretary of the Navy’s idea crowdsourcing website, the six participants refined their ideas through questions from a 5-person panel including RADM Scott Hebner (ret.), CMDCM Gary Campbell (ret.), CDR James Harney (CO of ATG Mayport), Derek Distenfield (The Bunker, Jacksonville Chapter), and Jason Salvagni (CoLabJax Co-Founder)

Each Sailor had 5 minutes to pitch their idea to improve the Navy, and then answer questions from the panel and audience at large. After each round, the audience and panel voted on each idea based on actionability, presentation, and idea quality by secret ballot. The scores were averaged together and ranked.

ET2 Danielle Walters took the prize and earned the “Athena SE 1.0 Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage” for her solution to the Navy’s administrative process to route special requests through the Chain-of-Command. By routing all special requests electronically, vice the current paper method, routing time is reduced, as well as reducing the ‘opportunities’ to reroute lost paper requests. Additionally, ET2 Walters’ proposed solution increases protection of sensitive documents, through a streamlined tracking system. As the 1st place winner, ET2 Walters was awarded a one year membership to CoLabJax and The Bunker, a veteran entrepreneur incubator, who will help her refine and prototype her idea.

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FC1 Chris Darby came in 2nd place and was awarded a 3-month membership to CoLabJax and The Bunker to refine his idea to solve the conundrum of remembering 15-character passwords by using cognitive passwords attached to emojis. Cognitive passwords go beyond biometric and physical passwords to protect our data. Cognitive passwords are based on personal events and/or opinions that are not only extremely difficult to break, but also memorable to the user.

Other presenters included:

  • IT2 Brendan Rodgers envisions a more robust catalogue of interesting and educational Professional Military Education (PME) topics on Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) that would award the student with certificates from the Navy War College. Topics would include history, honors and ceremonies, and traditions of the United States Navy.   These courses are designed to be interactive, engaging, and help Sailors develop a higher level of respect for their uniforms’ and the United States Navy. These courses will also help strength our Navy, by providing content for Sailors to dig deeper into our history, so they can properly influence the future.
  • FC2 Dean Loverde would like to see a web-based bulletin board for IWO JIMA Sailors to be able to exchange information about items for sale, knowledge to share, lost and found items, and other such community-driven conversation.
  • ET3 Patrick Fisher has a great idea regarding the Navy’s Enlisted Evaluation process. Currently, only supervisors evaluate subordinates, however, ET3 wants to add more data evaluation data points to the process by including the opinions from direct subordinates and supervisors for all members. By including the opinions of subordinates, a more accurate picture is painted, and allows feedback to the supervisor, which will overall improve our Navy’s over all selection of superior leadership.
  • IC2 Robert Moore would like to see his plan to not only recycle the massive amounts of metal waste produced by the Navy, but to see a system that allows flexibility to be able to return the recycling profits returned to MWR. Copper, Aluminum, and brass prices continue to rise, why not just recycle these metals, but collect the cash associated. Understanding there are strict rules governing the military’s constraints on receiving money, IC2 would like these laws to be revisited in order to not only support a greener Navy, but also add to MWR’s coffers.

All in all, the first Athena South East event was an excellent collection of bold innovators focused on making the Navy better. With so much energy from the first event, we’re looking forward to keeping the chapter going strong at our next event! Stay tuned!

 

LT Kristen Wheeler is the former Combat Systems Officer onboard the USS IWO JIMA. She’s currently assigned to the Navy Innovation Advisory Council at Moffett Field in San Francisco.

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!

 

 

 

Athena South East 1.0 Is Tomorrow!

By: LT Kristen Wheeler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are loads of Athena Events coming up! If you’re in the San Diego, Groton or Yokosuka areas, connect with us if you want to be a part of our upcoming events! Connect with us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com!