WEST BETHESDA, Md. — A vision became a reality at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Oct. 29. The Rapid Innovation Center (RIC) was officially opened during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Carderock’s West Bethesda, Maryland, headquarters.
Larry Tarasek, technical director (TD); Garth Jensen, director of innovation; Mike Kirby, command information officer; Anna Eshbaugh, branch head for Information Management Customer Service; and Matt Early, branch head for Information Technology (IT) Operations cut the ribbon at the event.
Tarasek began by talking about how the RIC came to be in the first place. He said at a Warfare Centers’ leadership conference several years ago, the other technical directors were talking about having the ability to use a closed space to try out different software packages. Bringing the concept back to Carderock, Tarasek said he raised the idea during his regular Friday morning TD coffees with employees.
“I was hearing from the employees that it was a great idea and how valuable it would be to the workforce,” Tarasek said, adding that he tasked Jensen to lead the effort to develop the RIC. “This new facility will enable enterprising engineers and scientists to more quickly, and with less administrative burden, experiment with cutting-edge software and hardware, and more rapidly transition these technologies to the fleet.”
Formerly the medical clinic, Building 22 became the ideal space for the RIC. The facilities team, led by Rob Purvis, worked for about a year transforming the building that sits between Building 1 and the west end of the tow basin into the RIC, creating three open bays, each bay known as an enclave. Then the IT team came in to set up the cyber infrastructure.
While the RIC only officially opened last week, there have been users in the space for several months. Dave Newborn, an ocean engineer in Carderock’s Maritime Systems Hydromechanics Branch, conducted a weeklong design thinking/agile boot camp for Carderock’s Center for Innovation in Ship Design (CISD) in the RIC this fall. He said the facility provides trainees and workshop participants a location that helps foster new perspectives and mindsets.
“The RIC is an excellent, vital facility for our workforce, and it will provide a unique location at West Bethesda to foster the open, creative dialogue that is critical to design-thinking exercises,” Newborn said. “As a ‘digital sandbox,’ the RIC will enable important advancements in product development that would otherwise be an onerous endeavor.”
Kirby’s IT team made it their goal to make that “onerous endeavor” a little easier to navigate. Katrina Moore, the command information systems security manager, said using this area to test software will still require local approval, but the advantage the space provides is that this approval can be granted much more quickly and with more direct collaboration than is typically associated with the full Department of Defense approval needed for use on the NMCI or RDT&E networks.
Kirby said they have also installed the Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) Outreach Network, a guest network that allows unfettered access to the internet for transmittal of non-government data. Additionally, the RIC has both Windows and Linux operating systems available in a virtual, closed-enclave network. In the future, he said they are looking to add additional capability with Wi-Fi connectivity for both NMCI and RDT&E.
“This space is going to be an evolving concept that’s relatively new to the Navy,” Kirby said. “As we get a better sense of the demand signal and requirements people need, we are going to go back and work with the Navy higher echelons and security folks to understand how we can meet mission requirements for this space.”
Harry Whittaker, team lead for Sailor Performance Support Technology at Carderock, used the RIC over the summer while he had interns working on the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality initiative, which seeks to create virtual training for Sailors so they won’t have to leave the ship for certain training evolutions. Whittaker said that since the interns often don’t get their CACs for a couple of weeks after checking in, the RIC was a perfect option, because they had access to the DREN guest network.
“We had two weeks of great productivity even before they had their NMCI accounts set up,” Whittaker said, adding that he expects he’ll have competition next summer for time in the RIC with interns. “I wish it would stay a well-kept secret.”
Whittaker said having the resources the RIC offers, including the ability to process very large images, was critical to their success with HoloLens. They also required several software packages that integrated with the HoloLens, yet another opportunity he found helpful in the RIC.
“We needed a lot of different software to actually create the images, process them and to get the storyline set up,” Whittaker said. “The IT staff here at Carderock did a phenomenal job. If we didn’t have it, we did the research, we found what we needed, we specified it, IT made sure it was acceptable, we got it installed and started using it within days. We were incredibly happy, and the interns were very much energized.”
For more information about Carderock’s RIC, send an email to NSWCCDRapidInnov.firstname.lastname@example.org.