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CHIPS Articles: NIWC Atlantic Accelerates Digital Solutions through Engineering Challenge

NIWC Atlantic Accelerates Digital Solutions through Engineering Challenge
By Michaela Judge, Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic - January 19, 2021
Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic recently held a Digital Engineering (DE) Challenge designed to encourage employee-developed, model-based solutions for complex problems.

Team “CPR: Cameo, Programming, Revit” from NIWC Atlantic’s Shore Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Integration Department, placed first out of the five teams that competed from across the center. The challenge, which lasted four weeks, created a learning environment designed to explore and increase awareness of model-based approaches.

“Conducting these challenges provides upward and downward visibility of digital engineering and model-based systems engineering (MBSE) across our Warfare Center,” said Caleb Scott, NIWC Atlantic engineering supervisor. “Not only does it give our technical practitioners an opportunity to see digital engineering applied to problem sets they are familiar with, it also highlights the value provided by this approach to our top leaders.”

The challenge was developed, planned and executed by NIWC Atlantic’s Peyton Cavaroc and Scott, both electronics engineers and supervisors, and Paul Walter, architecture, requirements and modeling manager. This event was one of two engineering challenges offered at NIWC Atlantic for 2020.

During the challenge, participating teams were offered problem statements on a variety of focus areas to include digital twins, mixed reality, modeling and command processes, data and tools and more.

“We solicited each of NIWC Atlantic’s major departments, the Command Information Office, the engineering integrated product team (IPT) and the research and development IPT for potential problem statements to use for the challenge,” said Walter. “We worked largely with the department chief engineers to identify complex problems that would lend well to taking digital (i.e. model-based) approaches.”

The winning team members, Ashlyn Kersey, systems engineer, Breighann Kalb, building information modeling (BIM) engineer, and Jason Ferreira, software developer, collaborated to develop a technology solution and addresses a problem set that enables the transfer of system data between an MBSE tool and a BIM tool in order to share common data for command and operations center projects.

“The team worked hard to apply digital engineering principles to a real challenge while making the most out of the available tools that are actively promoted across the Department of the Navy,” said Walter. “The team members uniquely blended three skillsets across three different engineering domains to provide an achievable way to manage data across two model-based engineering toolsets.”

When approaching their problem statement, Kersey explained they started by outlining an end state that the team thought was reasonable and then brainstorming several different ways to get there.

“Trial and error was a key practice in the development of our capability, and we tried a lot of things that didn’t work, but we kept getting smarter and approaching the problem from different angles until we finally arrived at our solution,” said Kersey.

The event planners emphasized that the ability to assess multiple design strategies is one of the many benefits digital approaches offer when working faster toward a better engineering solution. The team’s resulting solution not only addressed the specific problem statement, but also provided the potential for a myriad of benefits to the workforce and NIWC Atlantic’s customers.

“Achieving model synchronization could lead to cost and time savings in the development of integrated design processes and other design materials, while reducing the probability of errors and the need for static, paper-based artifacts,” said Kersey. “This solution also supports larger digital engineering transformation goals by formalizing the integration, development, and utilization of the two models while still maintaining an enduring and authoritative source of truth.”

Winning the challenge came as a surprise for Team CPR, Kersey said, as all of the team proposals were innovative and diverse. However, since presenting their solution, Team CPR members have already seen interest from others to learn more or to further develop on their concepts.

“We have had several people reach out wanting to use or further develop our solution, so it makes us really happy that we were able to produce something that could go on to benefit others as well,” said Kersey.

Walter explained the certainty of implementing digital engineering practices and the importance of evolving as an organization to ensure increased speed to capability, which are further accomplished through events such as this one.

“The sooner we evolve, the more quickly we can keep pace with our adversaries, rapidly developing technology and the ever-changing missions we support,” said Walter.

In the future, NIWC Atlantic will continue to use employee and industry-driven challenges to encourage innovation and ideas that directly align to real-world fleet needs and requirements.

“With ‘near peer’ competitors, we are being challenged by our Navy leadership to provide technical solutions and new capabilities at that same level of quality but in less time,” said Scott. “Digital engineering is the means to increase our speed to capability.”

As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

Charleston, S.C. (January 14, 2021) Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic employees (left to right) Breighann Kalb, Jason Ferreira and Ashlyn Kersey teamed up and won the Digital Engineering (DE) Challenge designed to encourage employee-developed, model-based solutions for complex problems. Team “CPR: Cameo, Programming, Revit” from NIWC Atlantic’s C2ISR SHORE Department, placed first out of the five teams that competed from across the center. The challenge, which lasted four weeks, created a learning environment designed to explore and increase awareness of model-based approaches. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Joe Bullinger/Released) (monitor images added)
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