Data science, data analytics and Navy Digital Twin (NDT) were the topics for the National Engineers Week event Feb. 21 at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Maryland.
“We recognize the contributions of our 1,500 world-class scientists and engineers here at Carderock,” said Larry Tarasek, Carderock’s deputy technical director, adding that he is proud of his engineering degree and the work he has done at Carderock as engineer, specifically early in his career in the experimentation for the Seawolf program. “We have 60 years of acoustic trials; we have massive amounts of data through large-scale model testing. How are we going to do data analytics, how are we going to do machine learning going forward in the future?”
The event featured Trisha Shields, lead of the aviation data analytics projects for Carderock’s Sea-Based Aviation and Aeromechanics Branch, and keynote speaker Dr. Tom Fu, director for the Ship Systems and Engineering Research Division at the Office of Naval Research.
Shields talked about the new community of practice (CoP) for data analytics and data science she is leading for Carderock. She said that generating actionable information from data processing is one of the key underlying concepts that drives the community of practice, and it is the core to the Navy Digital Twin effort, which was the focus of Fu’s presentation.
“It’s the organization, structuring, contextualization and analysis of data to produce actionable information and to help us make decisions,” Shields said. “Right now, we are at a point where the generation of data is so easy and so cheap that it would be foolish of us not to take advantage of it.”
The main objective of the community of practice is to “maintain stewardship and technical proficiency of the past, present and future state of data analytics/science at Carderock, as well as their application to the Navy’s ships and ship systems.” Shields said in basic terms this means to establish and empower a fundamental competency within the workforce.
With the Department of Defense and the Navy’s unique problem space, Shields said that the workforce needs to keep in mind that the methods and techniques being developed in industry.
“They (industry) don’t necessarily take into account our mission requirements and our operating environments,” she said. “We need to work with industry and academia to take what they are doing and adapt it to our unique problem space. That’s where the community of practice comes in.”
The mission of the community of practice is to build a sustained and strong community of practitioners that help Carderock, and Shields laid out four key actions that the CoP will focus on:
• Identify and leverage existing experience and expertise
• Network with others and share knowledge
• Develop and support analytics best practices
• Train and develop skills in the workforce
Shields said she intends to hold a monthly meeting of the CoP, featuring a short seminars on a data analytics tool, method, technique, workshop or conference.
Fu, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is a former Carderock engineer who eventually became the deputy department head at Carderock for what is now the Naval Architecture and Engineering Department. During his talk about Navy Digital Twin, he linked the Navy’s overall vision to what the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) provides.
When working as an engineer, Fu said he was very focused on his particular contribution. In his current position at ONR, he said he thinks about the bigger picture all the time, how NAVSEA provides maritime dominance.
“I think it’s a message that does get lost. You guys need to think about it also,” Fu said. “It is not a trivial vision; it’s not a trivial mission. It’s a very hard thing to execute.”
Fu used a definition by Srivathsan Govindarajan, the vice president of SAP Digital Twin, to describe digital twin as “a dynamic digital representation of a live physical object,” and that it will “dynamically change in near real-time as the state of the physical object changes.”
For the Navy, the physical object can be a full platform, a ship or ship systems, with Sailors actively working.
“We have the history of that object; we have the current state; and we will have what happens in predicting what’s going forward,” Fu said. “I have an infinity of futures that I can project into and say, ‘What do I want that future of this platform to be?’”
Fu talked about not only the speed of technology improvements, but also the speed of technology adoption. He said from the onset of electricity in the late 19th century it was 46 years before a quarter of the population had adopted electricity. By the time the Internet came along, that adoption rate dropped to seven years.
“The speed of innovation and adoption continues to increase,” Fu said. “To maintain the competitive advantage, we will need to move faster to capture those opportunities.”
With the speed of technology advancements, Fu said the Navy has to be able to look into the future to support ships and submarines, which can have a 30-50 year lifetime.
“Maritime superiority starts here and the future is now,” Fu said, adding that maritime superiority is a hard problem. “It’s prompt and sustained combat; it’s sea floor to space, from deep water to littorals, information and cyber; it’s to conduct decisive combat operations. These are not trivial things, there are millions of things that go into each one of those and how does it all roll together.”
He said digital twin can support the quest for maintaining maritime superiority, but digital twin needs its own set of support.
“All the things that Trisha talked about for the Community of Practice, you’re going to need those skills. We’re going to need that capability,” Fu said. “This is the challenge. You’re going to have to figure out how to do it.”
Fu ended by thanking the engineers for being engineers, recognizing that from his position, he can speak for the Navy in saying that everything the engineers do that supports the Navy is appreciated by leadership and the rest of the Navy.
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, a part of Naval Sea Systems Command, leads the Navy in hull, mechanical and electrical engineering. Headquartered in West Bethesda, Maryland, Carderock Division employs approximately 2,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel and includes detachments in Norfolk, Virginia (Little Creek); Port Canaveral, Florida; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Bangor, Washington; Ketchikan, Alaska; and Bayview, Idaho.