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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Gearing Up for Waterfront Athena 8

By: LTJG Tom Baker

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We are excited to extend an invitation to Waterfront ATHENA 8 on Friday, August 28th at the Societe Brewing Tasting Room from 1200-1500!

Before I started writing this announcement, I read through the blog posts below from LCDR Drew Barker and ENS Daniel Stefanus. My takeaway in short: We are witnessing some very exciting and inspirational times!

Growth and transformation within ATHENA is accelerating. We are breaking new ground in the amount of support and interest received from our surrounding military and civilian communities. ATHENA 8 promises a showing of that growth and change.

The mighty BENFOLD, our original grassroots platform for The ATHENA Project, is preparing for a homeport shift to Yokosuka, Japan in early September. We will carry over a team of inspired hearts and minds, anxious to launch ATHENA Far East this fall. And certainly, in that effort we are thrilled to connect with anyone who might be inspired by the Project and would like to get involved – message us if you’re interested!

The San Diego team we depart from is nothing short of awesome! At ATHENA 8, BENFOLD will “pass the torch” to leaders from LCSRON 1 and USS ANCHORAGE.

As always, the stage is 100% open to any innovators in the San Diego area, regardless of community affiliation (or service affiliation for that matter, as we are thrilled to have our Marine Corps brethren geared to participate in ATHENA 8!). If you have a big idea that you want to share with our open and accepting network, get a hold of us and come on down to the event to share your idea with kindred spirits!

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The Athena Project returning to the awesome space that our friends at Societe Brewing Company have built on August 28th!

We hope you can share these exciting changes with us at Waterfront ATHENA 8. See you at Societe on August 28th!

 

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

Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail athenanavy@gmail.com!

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!

Waterfront Athena Five Roundup

 

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On Friday, the fifth installment of the Waterfront Athena Project stormed Societe Brewing Company in San Diego with a flurry of ideas born on the deckplates.

Eleven presenters from four different organizations in the San Diego area pitched their innovative concepts to an eager crowd of creative thinkers in an ongoing effort to make the Navy better. For more about how The Athena Project works, check this out.

As we’ve grown, so has the support and encouragement from commands across the San Diego waterfront, as well as from industry and academia. This time, we had more than a dozen diverse commands represented and several leaders in various fields swung by to showcase their newest technologies including holographic images, augmented reality and the en vogue Oculus Rift. It’s always inspiring to see the bridges that continue to strengthen across the fleet and beyond, and it made for an amazing event.

CTT2 Anna Nothnagel and Lockheed Martin's Joe Mirizio showcase a maintenance tablet, brought to you by Waterfront Athena Four!

CTT2 Anna Nothnagel and Lockheed Martin’s Joe Mirizio showcase a maintenance tablet, brought to you by Waterfront Athena Four!

We kicked off with some of our new friends from Zebra Imaging and long-time Athenians from the USC Institute of Creative Technologies showing off their latest designs. Beyond that, the crowd got to see a prototype of CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel’s maintenance tablet idea from Waterfront Athena Four showcased by Lockheed Martin, demonstrating in spades that the ideas that come out of The Athena Project just don’t stop moving.

After that, it was time to get down to the ideas. Here’s how it all went down:

Waterfront Athena Five’s Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage:  EM2(SW) Susan Pavao, USS BENFOLD 

EM2 Pavao laughing her way right to the Admiral Sims Award!

EM2 Pavao laughing her way right to the Admiral Sims Award!

Proving that the best innovations are sometimes the simplest solutions, EM2 Pavao pitched an idea that begged the question: Why hasn’t this been around for 20 years? As a shipboard electrician, she found herself frustrated by a process that should be very simple: Changing small light bulbs. With the many layers of electrical safety onboard, this process is incredibly complicated, requiring either tagging out equipment, or working on energized equipment and donning protective gear that limits the electrician’s ability to complete this simple task. Well, it turns out that a government-issue pen hold the key. The shape and design of the pen, when disassembled fits perfectly around the bulb and allows an electrician to change out the bulb, albeit wearing oversized gloves, quite easily.

Petty Officer Pavao’s innovation is a tool, with the dimensions of the disassembled pen, made of insulated material that would allow electricians to simply and effectively change out bulbs. She even suggested that such a tool could be easily 3-D printed onboard ships, enabling Sailors to do their work more efficiently and effectively.

From This...

  From This…

...To This

…To This

As USC’s Todd Richmond pointed out: “Who knew a government pen could be used for something other than paperwork.”

Runner Up: Shipboard Energy Competitions – FCC(SW) Christopher Roberts, USS BENFOLD

A steadfast disciple of energy conservation, Chief Roberts pitched a concept that would measure the electrical usage of every ship on the waterfront and display the results not only on the quarterdecks of each ship, but also to the entire base. His concept is a simple solution that would gameify energy usage, and drive units to limit energy consumption to the essentials while inport, saving the Navy thousands of dollars a day.

Third Place: Real-Time Maintenance – LTJG Isaac Wang, USS BENFOLD

A frequent flier at Athena events, and pitching in the often-unfortunate final spot, LTJG Wang proposed QR-coding the equipment onboard ships and utilizing image recognition to ensure that the maintenance requirements card for the equipment was always the right one. His proposal would eliminate out-of-date maintenance cards and ensure that Sailors always had the right procedures for their gear. All data files would be stored on a server and sent out as regular software updates, similar to the way cell phone apps get updated, and provide a constant validation of shipboard equipment.

Solar Roadways – SN John Fellows, ACU-1

A concept that stretches beyond just making the Navy better, SN Fellows proposed that on naval installations and beyond, the use of roads made of solar panels would provide an electricity source, prevent snow and ice buildup through heating elements, and alert drivers to obstructions in the road through LED lighting. Solar Roadways have already passed DOT load, traction and impact tests and are made of recycled materials. By his calculations, with the millions of square feet of roads on the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, the base could produce millions of kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

Integrated Accountability System – STGC(SW/IUSS) Scott Christ & CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel, USS BENFOLD

Imagine a system where all the meetings requiring attendance and all transactions to check out safety equipment, tools and hazardous materials required to conduct maintenance could all be tracked using scanners and ID cards to increase accountability. Well, that’s what Chief Christ and CTT2 Nothnagel pitched as a means to keep track of the myriad requirements for every Sailor in an organization. A scanner and computer would be placed in key locations to allow Sailors to scan their IDs and check their customized schedules for commitments. A scanner could also be placed on entry points to the ship, scanning Sailors on the way out to ensure that all rented gear had been turned in prior to departure.

Internships for Sailors – CDR Michele Day, USS BENFOLD

BENFOLD’s Captain became the highest-ranking Athena presenter ever with her idea for internships to provide opportunities for mastery within the Navy’s officer and enlisted ranks. Her premise would create experience-based learning reinforced by informal training and real-world experience. With shipboard on-the-job training providing mastery limited to the corporate knowledge onboard and many “C” and “A” schools transitioning to computer-based training, Sailors could gain invaluable knowledge and experience by interning with a corporation or organization related to their specialty to enhance their specific skill set. To apply for the program, Sailors would need to have earned their warfare qualification pin and spent at least one year onboard, and agree to a nominal commitment of service to pay back the Navy for the time spent away from the fleet. Opportunities could range from plumbing internships with local companies to management internships with industry leaders, and if the Sailor chose to leave service after completion of the payback tour, the first “right of hiring” would go to the company they interned with.

Anti-Torpedo Countermeasure – STG3 Michael Zujkowski, USS BENFOLD

STG3 Zujkowski says "Damn The Torpedoes!"

STG3 Zujkowski says “Damn The Torpedoes!”

For surface sailors, there are few scenarios more terrifying than a torpedo attack, and surface ship defenses against this type of attack are limited. With this problem statement, STG3 Zujkowski proposed a torpedo-tube-launched countermeasure that would be propelled to a pre-set depth and deploy an underwater net with propulsion at the corners to “catch” an incoming threat torpedo. His pitch suggested the net could be made of materials that would effectively stop a variety of different homing devices on threat torpedoes.

Fleet Tactical Talk to Text – LTJG Rob McClenning, USS BENFOLD

One of the circuits that surface ships use to communicate tactical maneuvers is an unencrypted net called Fleet Tactical wherein commands are passed between units as coded messages, leaving shipboard watchstanders to decode the message and execute the signal. Many allied countries use these code books, which have been in use for many years. LTJG McClenning proposed a computerized system with direct audio input from the circuit that would use voice recognition to automatically decode the message and also serve as a log of the messages received. Further, watchstanders could type proposed messages in plain text and have the computer code the message automatically for transmittal.

Motorcycle Buyback Program – FC2(SW) Zachary Quirk & FC3(SW) Adam Roter, USS RUSSELL

Motorcycle safety has been a concern in the military for a long time, and with rising fatality rates from motorcycle collisions, FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter’s proposed program is more relevant than ever. The two RUSSELL Sailors pitched a concept wherein the Navy would buy back used motorcycles from servicemembers to encourage alternate modes of transportation. In their view, the Navy spending $5-8K to purchase a Sailor’s motorcycle would be far less than spending $400K on a life insurance policy and even worse, having another Sailor senselessly die from a serious collision. In the question and answer session, the two Sailors acknowledge that there would have to be controls on the program that would prevent Sailors from purchasing motorcycles for low cost just to sell back to the government, but said that they felt it was important to start the conversation to improve the well being of the Navy’s most important resource: Its people.

USS RUSSELL's FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter on a mission to save lives.

USS RUSSELL’s FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter on a mission to save lives.

No More Waiting – ENS Claire Calkins & ENS Nick Mann, USS BENFOLD

Have you ever wasted time waiting around to collect required approval from someone above you in the Chain of Command? With ENS Calkins and ENS Mann’s idea to adapt technology more likely to be found in Outback Steakhouse or Great Clips, that would be a thing of the past. The pair proposed a system consisting of a check-in local intranet site and an armada of buzzing devices that would enable Sailors to put their names in a queue to see “the boss” and be buzzed when it was their turn. Instead of waiting outside of an office, the Sailor could then turn to whatever task needed to be completed in the interim and improve their productivity. Their idea could run off existing networks within ships that enable the use of handheld radios.

UAV Integration – ENS Paul Paquariello, USS SAN DIEGO

Representing the USS SAN DIEGO and the Basic Division Officer Course, ENS Paquariello presented an idea that would use hardened, ship-launched unmanned aerial vehicles to extend the range of a ship’s surface search radars to more accurately and effectively build a recognized maritime picture. In his proposal, the UAVs would have radar repeaters onboard which would extend the range of a surface search radar over the horizon.

With all the great ideas that came from this event, many of which have already found connections amongst the Sailors and engineers in attendance, it’s encouraging to think that this is merely the tip of the iceberg for the creativity resident in the Fleet.

While the West Coast iteration of The Athena Project continues to march along, the East Coast is getting involved in the action! The first-ever Athena Project East will be coming to Old Dominion University in the Hampton Roads area in September, aiming to unlock even more of that latent creativity from around the Navy. More to follow on how you can be a part of that!

At The Athena Project 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 by tremendous companies and makers from across the private sector and academia.

Societe Brewing Company: Great craft beers and innovation launchpad! Very Many Thanks!

Societe Brewing Company: Great craft beers and innovation launchpad! Very Many Thanks!

 

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 Societe Brewing Company for hosting this awesome event. You guys are are all awesome and drive us to do the things we do!

 

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!

The Launches Must Go On: Thinking Outside the Box and using AEGIS Assets to Support Space Launches.

By: LT William Hughes

ImageSometimes, solutions to problems come in the places you don’t expect, and it might not be in a field you are even involved in. Take me, for example: I’m a straight stick Surface Warfare Officer, but ask anyone on the BENFOLD I work with and they’ll tell you I’m the biggest space geek ever. I’m always reading some article or another about a new rocket design or a planned mission to some asteroid or moon. With that in mind, I also apply my SWO perspective to what I read about current space programs. I’m also constantly thinking about how we can make things better.

Space is still the final frontier, and we’re still sending rockets up to support manned and unmanned missions. The United States Air Force works with NASA to provide launch facilities for American space missions: Cape Canaveral in Florida, Wallops Island in Virginia, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California are all locations that have seen rockets slip the surly bonds of Earth. Whether said rockets are bound for a low Earth, geosynchronous, or polar orbits, or headed off even to the Moon or beyond to the outer planets and deep space, they all launch from the same pads and use similar infrastructures.

At each facility, powerful radars track every launch to ensure that supersonic rockets do not stray from their intended tracks. In addition to instrument packages that beam telemetry data back to mission control, Notices to Airman and Notices to Mariners (NOTAMs and NTMs) to warn people away from potential debris fields, and high tech cameras to follow the rockets on their downrange, technology exists to get the payload to orbit and get it there safely.

In March of 2014, a fire at a radar facility servicing Cape Canaveral caused enough damage to delay the launches of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V and a Falcon 9 built by SpaceX. ULA’s rocket was slated to carry a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, SpaceX’s was supposed to deliver several thousand pounds of supplies to the International Space Station. Both launches were delayed because a AN/MPS-39 radar was out of commission due to a fire.

What’s so special about this radar? According to the Army’s White Sands Missile Range, the AN/MPS-39 is a C-Band, phased array radar. With a search volume of 60 degrees by 60 degrees, its 5 mega-watt output allows it to track a 6 inch sphere at 120km. I wonder, is there any system out there that can do the same job?

Aegis ships, such as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers and Ticonderoga Class Cruisers, are outfitted with SPY-1 radars. SPY has become the workhorse of the Navy, and with good reason: the radar is a beast and the rest of the hardware and software that comprise the Aegis Combat System are even scarier. SPY is an S-Band phased radar that can pump out 6 mega-watts. 60 degree search volume? SPY was designed to shepherd billion dollar warships through fast paced, multi-threat environments. It’s a set of fixed billboard emitters, but with the 4 separate arrays, provides 360 degree coverage from horizon to zenith. Where the AN/MPS-39 has to slew on its mount to gain the same coverage, SPY is electronically steerable and can simultaneously track while scan. Where the Air Force’s radar has a range out to 120km, SPY can see out to nearly 200km, and certain baselines can push out far beyond.

Aegis ships are more than capable to track rockets blasting off. It’s no strain on the radar resources, and having an Aegis ship on station actually gives range officials more options. In addition to the previously used methods to guarantee range safety, the ability of the SPY radar to simultaneously track the rocket and scan for other aircraft could be utilized to spot aircraft inadvertently entering the path of the rocket, and ditto for ships or boats by using the numerous surface search radars onboard. Each Aegis ship has an entire bubble of water space it can continuously monitor. The data links that would be used to pass track data back to mission control could also be used to share information between multiple ships, allowing for an even great degree of monitoring for launch activities.

Norfolk is about a day’s voyage from Cape Canaveral, and Mayport is even closer. On the West Coast, San Diego is a similarly short trip from Vandenberg. The logic is pretty simple: we can allow single point failures in radars to delay already costly launches, or we can use existing, mobile assets of equal and greater capability, already located in the same geographic region, to augment and keep launches on schedule.

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The process for solving this issue is the same as solving other problems in different fields. Keep your aperture open, pay attention to what you’re passionate about, and if some idea jumps out at you that seems a bit froggy, don’t be afraid to run with it. I’m not a genius. I don’t have some whamodyne degree in space science physics. I don’t even want to launch a rocket into orbit; I just want to track one.

 

LT Hughes is the Navigator on the guided missile destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He’s detaching soon to work in the N96 shop at OPNAV in Washington, DC. A self-proclaimed “space nerd,” LT Hughes dreams of one day making a space family and taking space walks.

Interested in ATHENA? Come to our next event, Waterfront ATHENA Five, at Societe Brewing in San Diego, California. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthenaNavy. Want to present an idea? Message us!

 

Getting Back To It!

By: LT Dave Nobles

WeAreBack

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!

Open Doors to Open Minds

By: CDR Rich LeBron

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Military organizations are hierarchical.  On a U.S. Navy ship, for example, there’s a Captain, an Executive Officer, Officers, Chief Petty Officers, and junior enlisted crew.  Other services and shore establishments possess a similar structure.   It’s not too difficult to know who’s in charge of what.  There’s an organizational chart and it’s a matter of law, tradition, and regulation, and for the most part, it works.

Our traditional top-down organization is battle tested and has delivered success in high-stress, pressurized environments.  But elsewhere and under less stressful conditions, it’s a structure where juniors can progressively turn into toadies, colleagues occasionally engage in competitive struggles to ‘impress the boss,’ and dissent is either actively or tacitly deterred.  To say it another way, it’s a stifling environment.  In this vertically stratified setting the boss can find isolation behind the closed door of authority and good ideas can be transmuted, crushed, or simply dismissed on their way to the top as spirits and morale are driven into the ground.  It’s the way it’s been, the way it is, and likely, the way it will always be.  Or will it?

Not if we have anything to do with it!

Who are ‘WE’ you ask?  ‘WE’ are the ones not necessarily found in any organizational chart.   ‘WE’ are the free-thinkers, the trailblazers, the innovators, the influencers, and the mavericks who recognize the real damper to creative problem solving is what management guru Gary Hamel calls the “soggy, cold blanket of centralized authority.”

‘WE’ is anyone who wants to shake off the flawed perception that the military – the Navy in this case – is what it is and we just have to live with it rather than change it, improve it, and make our mark upon it.  But how do we go about making that mark?  What is, as social scientist Gregory Bateson put it, the difference that makes the difference?

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Open doors.   The difference is the open doors that open minds and say “hey, look to me and consider me trustworthy and approachable.”

In a top-down organization, power, as often does information, flows from the top down.  In the Navy, it flows from the Admiral, the Commodore, the Captain, the Chief, the boss.  It’s a sensible structure in many instances, but it’s also one that fast moving civilian companies have long recognized alienates employees from policy decisions, strips them of any power to rise up against bad ideas or egocentric seniors, and erodes employee confidence in leaders and managers.  In other words, it’s a perfect environment for those who like their doors metaphorically or literally closed and prefer to rule by decree.  But closed doors do stem from and lead to closed minds and that’s not good for the Navy.

Before going any further, one thing must be made clear: our Navy needs a well-defined hierarchy.  It’s effective.  It makes the transition from decision to action swift and, and although not the perfect choice for every situation, there’s definitely a place for vertical stratification, particularly in an operational context.  But we do so much more than operate.  We ideate, we innovate, we develop, we produce, we think, we teach, we listen, we learn, and we lead.  These are the things that lead to sound decisions and they clamor for the access to leaders that comes from open doors and open minds.

The Navy is an enterprise continually exploring new horizons to keep a globally competitive edge.  It’s one reason we attract some amazing talent.  But sticking to a strictly vertical hierarchy and repeatedly slamming the door on eager minds will do little to encourage young talent to stay.  To attract, inspire, and KEEP much needed talent, we need to flatten our organizations and build teams of upbeat, innovative, and passionate people who are confident in their leaders and are bent on making a difference and making their mark.

Open doors enable our incredibly talented workforce to speak up and adapt and transform our organizations at the speed of thought.  But open doors also lead to an informed and engaged team who will challenge the status quo, who will resent spin, who will go outside normal channels in pursuit of results, who will test authority and stretch boundaries, who will take risks, who will follow their passions, and, dare it be said, who will dissent.  That can be frightening to some.  But it can also be incredibly rewarding and liberating when bounded by a framework of mutual trust between leaders and their teammates.  Open doors therefore demand courageous thick-skinned leaders with suppressed egos and high confidence in their teams, leaders who are willing to accept new ideas at perhaps the cost of their own.

In this context, open doors are disruptive to the traditional power base of ‘bosses’ in a vertically stratified organization like the Navy.  Without a closed door to hide behind, positional power loses steam and the ability to rely on titles and rank to achieve success is challenged.  That’s a threat to the status quo.  Open doors will lead to open minds but will also require mature leadership skills to guide those minds to deliver positive results.  The only time a door should remain closed is to afford the leader some precious time to think and do only the things the leader can do.  Otherwise it should remain wide open.  Leaders who open their doors and flatten their organizations will have to rely on their ability to influence teammates through credibility, engagement, and trust rather than through the power of their office. That’s a far more challenging proposition than simply ruling by decree.

But really, what’s the point?  What does it matter if our Navy is vertically stratified or horizontally structured?  What does it matter if our doors are open or closed, or if our talent stays or leaves?  Why care?

The answer is fairly simple, really.

It matters because the Navy needs to stay ahead of potential adversaries and, like any industry or company, it risks losing its competitive advantage through stagnation.  It matters because we, as a Nation, need to stay ahead of those in hot pursuit and because being knowledgeable is no longer enough; we need to be creative.  It matters because a team cannot be commanded to be creative; it must be inspired to be so and inspiration doesn’t come from atop an ivory tower or from behind a closed door.  And it matters because talented, inspired, and creative people must be attracted and retained.

Our continued viability, relevance, and success as a Navy depend more than ever on the talent and engagement of our junior people in shaping our future.   Incredibly capable junior Sailors and Officers faithfully serve.  That talent will remain engaged so long as leaders are not indifferent to what they have to offer.   They will walk if the converse is true.  Leaders who open their doors and minds to the ideas and solutions that bubble from the bottom up will find success.  Those who insist on closing their doors or opening them just enough only to push their own ideas from the top down are doomed either to fail personally or bleed our Navy of talent and thereby lead it to failure.  Those are unacceptable outcomes.

Closed doors will work well to insulate stone-hearted, spirit deflating and fearful leaders from change just as open doors will meet with resistance from those too entrenched in the past, too arrogant to try, or too afraid to trust.   That’s a sorry excuse for leadership and a great excuse for Sailors to jump ship.

However, leaders committed to success, devoted to the future, and dedicated to maintaining and increasing competitive advantage will find that open doors will lead to the frontiers of open minds and open minds will result in a culture of unremitting success and talent retention.

The choice then is simple: fear change, close the door – and LOSE – or be one of ‘WE’, open the door to open minds – and WIN.  ‘WE’ believe in open doors and ‘WE’ challenge all in positions of leadership in the Navy to open the door and replace the soggy, cold blanket of centralized authority with the mantle of inspired and inspiring leadership to empower their teams to creatively solve problems, stay Navy, and win.

CDR LeBron serves as the Commanding Officer of USS BENFOLD (DDG 65), is a founding teammate, mentor, and ardent champion of The Athena Project, and has been dedicated to blowing the doors off the hinges of vertically stratified thinking since he enlisted as a Sailor in 1989.   

Be sure to like Athena on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in pitching at our upcoming Waterfront Athena Event on February 13th at San Diego’s Ballast Point Little Italy Tasting Room? Message us!

Project Pulse: CosmoGator

night-sky

LT William Hughes started his Athena pitch by taking the iPhone out of his pocket.

“If I can have an app on this thing that can recognize stars in the night sky,” Hughes, the Navigator onboard the guided missile destroyer BENFOLD began, “Then why can’t I have the same on my ship?”

The crowd at Modern Times brewery for last October’s Waterfront Athena Event agreed, voting LT Hughes’ CosmoGator project second overall.

In his pitch, Hughes argued that, due to the proliferation of Global Positioning System (GPS) jamming technology and the development of anti-satellite weapons, there is a good chance that any future conflicts will develop in a GPS denied environment. And with technological capabilities developing at an exponential rate the Navy, with its plethora of high tech platforms and weapons that depend on GPS, must guarantee the ability to execute missions without it. Hughes found that celestial navigation could be the answer – And it’s been around for hundreds of years.

Traditional celestial navigation involves sight planning, shooting lines of position, followed by sight reductions. This process has been improved upon with the advent of computers and a program called STELLA (System to Estimate Latitude and Longitude Astronomically), however, it still requires a sailor to take a sextant and attempt to derive lines of position from a small number a stars against a backdrop of millions, often under less than ideal sea states and weather conditions.

Although surface combatants have Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) to serve as back-ups to GPS, the accuracy of those systems cannot be guaranteed for extended periods of time. CosmoGator is an automated celestial navigation system that will interface with existing ship systems to maintain safety of navigation and provide position inputs to ship subsystems.

CosmoGator is a multi-part system comprised of a gyro-stabilized and actuated camera and a software tie in to existing navigation computers.  Ephemeral data from existing systems, such as STELLA, would be used to plan sights and to slew the camera to the exact point in the sky.  The automated camera would be able to slew to exactly where planned stars are in the sky, take steady, accurate measurements beyond the tenth degree that the standard marine sextant can give.  This LOP data would then be fed back into the navigation computers and converted to a lattitude and longitude for use by various ship systems.,  and populated out to ship systems.  Position data from CosmoGator would be used as an input into to reset INS, align antennas for Satellite Communications and programmed into combat systems that require precise position inputs.

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LT Hughes presents CosmoGator at the Waterfront Athena on 25 October 2013.

While the concept is quite simple, there are many dots that require connecting.

Take a minute to imagine this scenario: USS WARSHIP is steaming towards a launch point for a strike mission against country Orange. Orange uses its anti-satellite capabilities and local GPS jamming equipment to effectively black out the figure of merit 1 navigation data WARSHIP is used to receiving. Upon the loss of GPS, WARSHIP’s navigation systems automatically kick over to the INS, which is guaranteed to be accurate for up to 48 hours, but WARSHIP is still 3 days from station. That night, the ship’s automated celestial navigation system, over the course of just a few minutes, takes several accurate lines of position from the stars and planets and determines the ship’s position with an error of ≤ 25 meters.

That fix, with the same accuracy of GPS, is simultaneously fed to both the navigation display on the bridge and in Combat information Center, but also back into INS to re-start the 48 hour accuracy countdown. This process would repeat every single night until GPS was restored. Upon arrival at the launch point, the ship can use INS to input the Tomahawks’ start point and successfully execute its mission.

CosmoLogo

Potential CosmoGator logo.

CosmoGator placed second overall at the October 2013 Waterfront Athena.  In the weeks and months that have followed, the project hasn’t died.  CosmoGator was subsequently picked up by the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) as a project for their next round of ideas, opening up avenues with the Office of Naval Research and the Navy Warfare Development Command.

In January, at SPAWAR’s “Learn the Warfighters’ Needs” workshops in Point Loma, CosmoGator gained traction with several engineers and physicists who are working to answer the question of precision navigation and timing (PNT) in a GPS denied environment.

The Department of Defense had previously shelved a shore-based project called DayStar that aimed to accomplish many of the same objectives as CosmoGator but lacked the requisite technology. Since this technology is now readily available, it is likely that a feasible system could easily be produced and deployed on our surface combatants. Other organizations have expressed interest as well, and the CosmoGator team is working with NASA and the Naval Postgraduate School in an ongoing effort to link similar projects, gain funding, continue research and bring CosmoGator to life.

When it comes to CosmoGator’s potential, the stars really are the limit!

More Than Just Nametags

By: LTJG Kaitlin O’Donnell

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It has been a rough week.

Last weekend, I flew back to the East Coast to attend my grandfather’s funeral.  It was a very tough time for my family, but I was so thankful to be able to make it back and spend the weekend celebrating his life with everyone.  My grandfather had such a tremendous impact on my entire family, especially my twelve cousins and I.  He always encouraged us to follow our dreams, study hard, spend time with family, have fun, and have a strong faith.  After years spent together at Sunday dinners, vacations on Cape Cod and the annual O’Donnell Family Christmas, I only knew him as Grampy.

While celebrating his life this past weekend I had the honor of meeting the tremendous people that he had worked with for the past fifty years as a physicist and program manager for the United States Navy.  For the first time, I saw a different side of Grampy.  I always knew that he didn’t want to retire, and but I never truly understood why until this weekend.  After talking with dozens of his colleagues from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, I understood why.

It was because of the people.

My grandfather truly got to know the people he worked with everyday and made every effort to mentor them and get to know them on a personal level.  He loved his job because of the people, and they loved him because he cared.

Just before my flight back to San Diego on Monday night I got news that I had lost a shipmate in an accident over the weekend.  Of course, I was very impacted by the news. News that you never want to get.  While I was on the plane I had time to reflect on the events of the weekend, and something really resonated with me: We are more than just nametags.  We are more than just our ratings, more than our ranks, more than our work.

We are people.

Each person that I work with everyday is someone special.  They all have a background, a family, and a past.  We all joined the Navy for different reasons and we all have a family at home, but now we are together serving as a “family” on BENFOLD. The weekend, while sad, made me appreciate that I need take the time to get to know the people I serve with as part of my ‘work family.’

We all have families outside of our work families.

We all have families outside of our work families that are waiting for us to come home.

In the Navy, our job revolves around the mission.  There is no doubt that as Sailors we come to work to get the job done everyday and we do whatever it takes to get there.  With the long hours we spend on the ship every day, not to mention the months spent away from family on deployment, we lean on each other for support and friendship.

I spent the majority of my last deployment standing watch in our Combat Information Center.  With six hours of watch everyday with the same team, I got to know them on a personal level.  Although we came from all over the country with different backgrounds and our ages ranged over twenty years, I couldn’t imagine getting through deployment without my watch team.

I would have never guessed that I would have bonded so strongly with the group, but when we took time to get to know each other we truly became a family.  My watchteam knew what team I routed for (obviously, the Patriots), how I took my coffee, why I can’t eat before I go on a run, and when I just needed my space.  Building the relationship we did on deployment made us that much more excited to go to watch together and allowed us to work together as a team when the mission called.

At sea, our teammates are our family.

At sea, our teammates are our family.

But sometimes we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the ship.  We get stressed out with upcoming inspections, certifications and maintenance.  To be honest, I am the first person to get completely stressed and focused on the next training opportunity or be caught up preparing programs for an upcoming inspection.  And although this is all extremely important for the mission, I realize I need to take time to get to know the people around me.

Life isn’t just about the next promotion you get or the next major evolution you reach, but the people you meet along the way.  So, when you’re sitting in the next meeting or waiting to get a chit routed, take some time and get to know someone.  Ask the sailor next to you how their weekend was or where they are from or what their kids are up to.  Get to know them from a different perspective.  Because at the end of the day, they are someone’s son, they are someone’s wife, they are someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, grandfather, grandmother, friend.

At work people see me as the Training Officer.  They actually might turn the other way when they see me coming because I am usually trying to get them to attend some mandatory training event or asking why they haven’t turned in their program reviews for the week.

But they would probably be surprised to see me when I go home to Maryland.  At home, I am the oldest of three children.  My brother and I are always competing and my sister and I are always sharing clothes.  My mom and I go for runs together and I ask my dad for advice.  My grandmother still makes the best crabcakes in the world and I am usually found on the floor coloring or playing dolls with my little cousins.  I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, friend, and Navy officer.

This week I realized that everyone I work with has a story.  Everyone has a family and everyone deserves you to get to know them.

I challenge you to recognize the people you work with.  Get to know them and see them in a personal way.  You don’t have to be friends; you just have to have empathy.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, empathy is “ the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

Further, using empathy to understand people and how they act on the job can help us trigger insights that we might not have otherwise seen.  And that alone can be a breeding ground for innovation. Companies far and wide apply empathetic research to design new products for the end user, but who’s to say we can’t use this in the Navy to perform our mission better?

By learning about each other, we might just have more than the Navy in common.  And I’ll bet, that by getting to know the people around you it will make you that much more excited to come to work everyday.

So, the next time you get frustrated with a shipmate, take a step back and see them from a different perspective.  Remember they are someone’s brother, sister, son, daughter, father, mother.  Just because they do something differently doesn’t mean it’s not right.  When we get to know the people we work with we can better understand what motivates them, what frustrates them, and where they get their perspective.  The best part about the Navy is that we are a mixing bowl of people from all different backgrounds and experiences and each one of us brings a different perspective to the table.

The Navy may be about powerful warships, fighter planes, fast attack submarines and missile launches but in the end we are just defending our country.  We, the people, are protecting the people.  We all, from our own families, protecting families, and now part of another family – USS BENFOLD.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Life is short.  Take advantage of the time.  Appreciate your surroundings.  Get to know the people you work with.  Give everyone a chance.  Consider the other perspective.

 

LTJG Kaitlin O’Donnell is the Training Officer onboard USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). She’s a Marine Engineering graduate of Massachusetts Maritime Academy class of 2010.

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

Beware the Scenery: Noticing the Unnoticed

By: LT Dave Nobles

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Shipyards are filthy, filthy places.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget the warm, soapy water.

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

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