Does the annoying buzz from fluorescent lighting keep you up nights? Do you need assistive technology for night driving or to move from planning on paper to the ease of digital collaboration?
These are just a few examples of the problems that were solved by the Office of Naval Research's (ONR's) TechSolutions program.
TechSolutions is one of ONR's rapid response development efforts. Typically, a problem is submitted by a Sailor or Marine, a solution investigated, prototyped and fielded in 12 to 14 months from when a request comes in, explained Stephanie Everett, ONR TechSolutions program manager.
"ONR is probably best known for its basic research, but at TechSolutions we look for projects with lower risk and higher payoff. Often, when we come up with a solution, the operational community will say, ‘Of course, why hasn't somebody thought of this before,'" Everett said.
TechSolutions must be one of the best kept secrets in the Department of the Navy, but ONR's Command Master Chief Charles Ziervogel, who oversees TechSolutions, is working to change that by reaching out to the naval community.
"We use word of mouth, and we do go out to visit fleet concentration areas. We publicize the program with videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfy9hiBl4Jk&feature=youtu.be); we actually have two now [to publicize our success stories]," Ziervogel said. "We always need to do more outreach to get the word out."
TechSolutions personnel partner with subject matter experts and the scientific community to find the right technologies to solve the problems brought to them by the warfighters.
"We work with ONR science advisers to encourage Sailors and Marines to bring us their problems, and we visit the systems commands and warfare centers to encourage them to offer solution ideas. But we work strictly on a technology pull basis— we aren't looking for solutions until we see what the problem is," Everett said.
Available on the Internet and SIPRNET, TechSolutions accepts recommendations and suggestions from Navy and Marine Corps personnel working at the ground level on ways to improve mission effectiveness through the application of technology. It is solely focused on delivering needed technology to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and moving the sea services toward more effective and efficient use of personnel. TechSolutions uses rapid prototyping of technologies to meet specific operational needs.
Each project is structured with definable metrics and includes appropriate systems command elements in an integrated product team concept. While neither a substitute for the acquisition process, nor a replacement for the systems commands, TechSolutions aims to provide the fleet and force with prototypes that deliver 70 to 80 percent solutions which address immediate needs and can be easily transitioned by the acquisition community.
First in the process is an evaluation of the problem.
"We do validation in-house first; I give it a gut check with my 23 years as an operational Sailor. Sometimes we see symptoms not problems, and then we reach out to the community to figure out what the underlying issue is that we need to address. We go to subject matter experts in the field and at ONR and science advisers in the naval research community. We focus on the problem to find the right solution," Ziervogel said.
An important part of the development is the actual involvement of the service member who suggested the problem.
"We reach out to both the operational and scientific communities — and we will involve that person that brought the problem to our attention. I would have liked it when I was a junior Sailor to be involved in a process that was going to affect me and fix a problem I had," Ziervogel said.
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