Launching Athena Afloat!

By ENS Daniel Stefanus

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USS ANCHORAGE (LPD 23) is proud to announce that on July 25th it will be holding the first-ever Athena event while on deployment!

We hope that this will lead to both more Athena events on ANCHORAGE and on other deployed ships. All of these will fall under the umbrella of “AthenaAfloat,” a slight change in the typical Athena script given the rather dramatic difference between a haze gray warship and a brewery.

While we know it will be more difficult at sea, we think that now is the perfect time for the crew to participate in Athena. On deployment the ship goes through the ringer, and the crew has to adapt and improve our systems to keep us mission-capable and battle-ready. It is this innovative and utilitarian spirit that we want to harness. Rather than let all of our sailors’ incredible ideas and solutions go to waste, we’re going to get them written down, disseminated, and implemented for the betterment of the entire fleet! This will not only pay dividends for other operational units, but also empower our sailors and show them that they do matter in the eyes of the Navy, that they can make a difference.

DCC Jake Wright and I are spearheading Athena on ANCHORAGE. Jake served on BENFOLD and saw Athena firsthand as it developed and evolved into the incredible forum it is today. He won Waterfront Athena 6 in San Diego with his ingenious adaptation to existing desmoking methods on US Navy warships (by creating an adapter to use box fans instead of RAM fans to desmoke a space in half the time!). His experience and perspective have been invaluable in currying support with the Chief’s Mess and by giving our CO, XO, and CMC a tangible connection to Athena to better explain how it works and why it matters.

DCC Wright and LTJG Jason Benning pitching the "Effing Awesome 7000" during Athena Six at San Diego's Coronado Brewing Company Tasting Room.

DCC Wright and LTJG Jason Benning pitching the “Effing Awesome 7000” during Athena Six at San Diego’s Coronado Brewing Company Tasting Room.

I’ve been on ANCHORAGE for a little over a year as the Fire Control Officer. A few months after I reported to San Diego, a Duke classmate recommended I check out the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum in San Diego (DEFxSD). There I met Dave Nobles and the Athena team. As they explained Athena I sat back and thought, “Wow, this is huge, our Sailors would love something like this.” In the presentation at DEFxSD I saw a picture of DCC Wright, who had recently arrived on ANCHORAGE, and knew it was a sign. Monday morning I sought out DCC Wright and talked to him about his experience with Athena. We agreed that Athena should be brought to ANCHORAGE.

However, DCC Wright and I knew we’d have to make some significant adjustments for the model to fit our crew and our situation on deployment. The primary challenges we saw with the Waterfront Athena model on a deployed ship were:

-Incentivizing the event properly to get a wide-range of Sailors interested and involved

-Finding a relaxed and open venue for the flow of ideas

-Getting sailors enough time and free space to think and develop their ideas

-Overcoming the lack of knowledge about Athena onboard

-Making the event fun but polished, so that the audience can understand the ideas and enjoy the presentations

-Connecting Sailors with off-ship developers and enablers

A ship's deployment is a great time to capture Sailors' great ideas for making the Navy better!

A ship’s deployment is a great time to capture Sailors’ great ideas for making the Navy better!

DCC and I met with our triad, who have been incredibly supportive, and worked out solutions that we believe will maximize Athena’s impact on ANCHORAGE:

-The winning Sailor(s) will get a reward package filled with free, but enticing prizes, especially for a deployed Sailor: a duty-free liberty port during deployment and 96- and 48-hour liberty chits for back in San Diego. We hope these will help pique the ship’s interest and overcome the initial skepticism that accompanies any product launch. The fully-loaded prize pack shows them how committed the CO, ANCHORAGE, and the Navy are to Athena’s success. I cannot stress enough how we would be nowhere without our command’s support. It is the most important key to success here, the foundation upon which all else rests.

-For a venue and idea space we’re going to try our ship’s chapel as it is the largest and most open space for people to congregate. We will also hold idea sessions in our electronic classroom, so Sailors can come up during the workday to use the internet and free time to enhance their pitch.

-DCC and I will personally go to all 20 divisions on the ship to explain Athena and show DCC’s winning idea from Athena 6. This will dramatically increase understanding of the event and get Sailors’ questions answered immediately from the source.

-DCC, “Idea Mentors” (volunteers), and I will then meet a couple times with each Sailor interested in pitching an idea. The first session will be a brainstorming/troubleshooting session in which we help the Sailor analyze and his/her idea so that he or she is able to present a more polished and well-thought out idea at the actual event. The second session will focus on presentation skills and how best to convey his/her idea. These will give the Sailor more confidence and make the pitches more enjoyable and understandable for the audience.

-Finally, to connect Sailors with off-ship developers, inventors, and enablers, we have this blog and the invaluable help of the Athena team. This post is meant to raise awareness of the event as it builds, so that as soon as we finish on July 25th we can get the word out and get our Sailors plugged into the incredible Athena network!

Of course, since this is the first time anyone has ever tried to do an Athena underway, we certainly won’t pretend to have all the answers… If you guys out there in the blogosphere have any ideas that you’d like to see us try, or want to kick start a similar event at your command, please connect with us!

 

ENS Stefanus is the Fire Control Officer onboard USS ANCHORAGE. To connect with him or DCC Wright, e-mail Daniel.stefanus@lpd23.navy.mil or Jake.wright@lpd23.navy.mil

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!

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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!

The Future Will Be Made (By You!)

By LT Dave Nobles

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Last week, I had the honor of presenting The Athena Project’s story at a conference on Additive Manufacturing (AM) put on by The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The strength behind the AM movement is inspiring, and the best part is that this is the ground floor – and there’s plenty of room in the elevator!

 

The conference focused on evaluating not only policy for the use of 3D Printing Technology, but also the ways to get this innovative technology into the hands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines around the world. As you may expect, a workshop concerning a topic like this brought forth many key players in the Additive Manufacturing movement, including representatives from multiple branches of the military as well as government and civilian pioneers of AM.

Talking about our journey with The Athena Project fit naturally with the theme of the event, because we’re all about giving the talented minds in our services a voice. The cool thing about AM is that it allows that voice to be heard and be seen.

With a capability so empowering and burgeoning hardware and software options becoming easier and easier to use, servicemembers can employ their creativity to build an initial design or prototype of an idea that may have otherwise been difficult to express on paper or in a Powerpoint presentation. Indeed, AM is an excellent new technology, but it’s also an entirely new way to approach problem solving that unlocks a wave of possibilities to turn imagination into reality.

The encouraging thing about the AM movement is that the Navy is at the leading edge of getting the resources to the fleet. Last year, the LT Ben Kohlmann of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell launched an initiative called Print the Fleet that has put 3D printers onto ships and have paved the way for more involvement at the deckplate level. You can read about it here.

And on August 6th and 20th out in Dam Neck, the Print the Fleet team is hosting an event to increase awareness and knowledge about AM as well as brainstorm some uses for the technology to solve challenges. VADM Phil Cullom, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, talks about the this Makers Event during the Print the Fleet workshop here.

3D printers are getting more and more affordable - If you want one of your own, you don't have to be an evil supervillian anymore!

3D printers are getting more and more affordable – If you want one of your own, you don’t have to be an evil supervillian anymore!

Here in San Diego we aim to contribute to the cause as well. In the coming months, we hope to aim our first athenaSPEAR at Additive Manufacturing and pass your ideas to the team to ensure that we’re making the most of this awesome new capability.

So, how would you use additive manufacturing? If you’ve got a great idea that can solve some of of the challenges our ships, subs and squadrons face, we want to hear it! Hey, if you’d just like to get your hands on the latest 3D printing gear, let us know that too. And, as always, if you’re interested in doing some design thinking with us, come on down!

Sure, there are loads of ways that we can use AM to solve problems at sea, but beyond that, the use of the techniques can strengthen any potential Athena pitch as well. A quick Google search can direct you to a number of Makerspaces in most cities. Not into sharing? Well, there are truckloads of different AM printers that you can buy for less than $500. Take a look!

With Athena East right around the corner in Norfolk on September 12th and Waterfront Athena Six coming on October 10th in San Diego, there’s plenty of time to saddle up some Computer Aided Design software and print up your prototype!

 

Interested in presenting at Athena East or Waterfront Athena Six? Find us on Facebook and message us! Or, if you’re not into the whole social media thing, send us an e-mail at athenanavy@gmail.com

Want to read more about the Print the Fleet workshop? Check this out! Or, contact the team at PTF@navy.mil.