SAN DIEGO - A group of USS Benfold (DDG 65) Sailors visited the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center in Point Loma, Calif., to help scientists and engineers determine uses of some exciting new technology.
Josh Kvalve, a SPAWAR engineer, got wind of the “Athena Project,” an initiative of innovation founded on board Benfold through the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell. He decided that a group of innovative Sailors would be the ideal sounding board for a project he and his team are working to complete.
This SPAWAR branch is researching how to use next-generation head-mounted display technology onboard surface ships. This technology is achieved by a virtual display on the lens of specialty eye glasses. The applicability here is nearly endless but what gets SPAWAR excited is how this tool can deliver time sensitive information to various controlling stations on ships.
In a brainstorming session, the group of Sailors and engineers weighed in on how this new equipment can apply to the challenges experienced everyday on a ship. From damage control procedures during a casualty to contact reports to the captain, this tool could bring situational awareness to the controlling stations heretofore not available.
“What makes this process so great is that we can mix our ideas with your ideas, face to face, in a creative environment,” said Kvalve, speaking to the group of Benfold Sailors. “We engineers can discuss design all day, but it’s you Sailors who save us time and effort by narrowing our focus and setting our expectations on what works and what doesn’t work.”
The headset is still under development; however, the meeting between the two parties reaffirms the principle behind the Athena movement.
“Just by networking and other grassroots initiatives, we’re able to tap into the intellectual resources found throughout the waterfront,” said Lt. William Hughes. “We are able to bring this SPAWAR team valuable insight that will change the way we do business out at sea for the better.”
And it is that level of simplicity behind the Athena Project that has given it traction across the waterfront. Dating back to June, Athena started as a small group of Sailors sharing ideas over pizza. Now, the next installment on Oct. 25 is anticipated to host around 75 innovators, ranging from Sailors to engineers to scientists who will rank the presenter’s idea based on quality, presentation, and actionability.
However, the catalyst to Athena’s success is the command backing given to the winning ideas by way of a small functional team and time to develop. Take for instance the Environmental Acoustic Recognition System (EARS), last event’s winning idea.
This design adapts sound recognition technology developed by the Army and applies it to a ship’s pilot house in support of low visibility transits. What was once a five minute presentation given by an ensign to a group of his peers is now undergoing research and development by scientists at the University of Southern California, in partnership with a small team from Benfold at no cost to the U.S. Navy.
“That is the beauty that underscores the Athena Project; it serves as the platform for ideas that are already on the minds of the young Sailors in the fleet,” said Cmdr. Rich Lebron, Benfold’s commanding officer. “That’s an investment that costs tax payers zero dollars. What starts as a simple discussion amongst Sailors can result in far reaching effects. Athena sends those ripples of excellence throughout the fleet.”
Benfold is currently undergoing a scheduled maintenance availability in San Diego. Those interested in participating in the next Athena Project, should contact PAO@DDG65.NAVY.MIL.