Week 5

This past week concluded the fifth and final week of the PACFLT Industry Innovation Fellowship with O2O2 facewear.  I would like to thank the O2O2 team, the bio-design lab at Auckland University of Technology, the group at MD5 and PACFLT for making this opportunity possible and for teaching me a lot about the startup and innovative culture in O2O2.  I really enjoyed my time over these past five weeks and this has been a great opportunity to be involved with and learn from the O2O2 team. 

This past week the team focused on preparing the O2O2 facewear system for testing and the testing protocol that will be used in the testing being conducted at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).  In addition to the emphasis on testing the team was able to 3D scan the flight deck helmet to create a CAD model of the helmet that will allow for the O2O2 facewear to be modified for compatibility with the flight deck helmet.

The team learned quite a bit during the 3D scanning process.  Pictures highlighting the differences between the scans are included below.  The first scan was done with me wearing the mask and during the process it was noticed that the scanner was having difficulty picking up the areas of high reflectivity and the dark areas.  To overcome this issue masking tape was placed over the areas of high reflectivity and targets (small black and white stickers) were placed in the dark areas to allow the scanner to locate and more easily identify the surface.  These few changes made the scan much cleaner and more complete.  During the second scan, however, it was noticed that it was difficult to get the scanner in the right location to adequately provide the details of the underside of the ear muffs.  This was due to the scanner angle and distance requirements for a good scan.  For the last and most complete scan the flight deck helmet was placed on a mannequin head.  This provided the best scan because it allowed the head to be rotated and angled to meet the angle and distance requirements for scanning.

During the previous posts I discussed “fail fast”, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), “number 8 wire”, and prototyping principles but the one common topic all the innovators, small business owners, and researchers mentioned when discussing innovation was having a lack of a fear of failure.  Starting at a young age we are taught that failure is bad and admitting failure is to accept blame and that mentality once set it is carried forward into our professional lives.   As professionals we want to help our organization learn and grow from failures; however, because of the way we were taught we are thinking about failure the wrong way.  Harvard Business Review published an article “Strategies for Learning from Failure” by Amy Edmondson and the conclusion she drew about nurses’ willingness to speak up about differences in patient care units was caused by the behavior of the midlevel managers and their response to failures. 

The truth is that if we want to create a culture of innovation we must change the perception of failure.  Now that will be a very hard thing to do in an organization as large as the Navy but it can be done.  Changing this perception of failure will not only foster an innovative mindset but also allow small problems to be brought up, discussed and resolved before they can be compounded into a large issue.  One example of this from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility is when the Commanding Officer wanted to change the culture on injuries.  All injuries no matter how small were to be reported.  Once people realized that it was acceptable to report all injuries the reported injuries significantly went up but by analyzing the minor injuries trends were noticed that allowed for corrective actions to be taken to prevent more significant injuries which lead to a drop in the recordable injuries and lost work days.  I know that this example deals more with problems and not failures but the cultural shift and ability to capitalize on that shift is the importance of this example.

During a discussion with Jerry, the O2O2 Chief Technology Officer, the idea was discussed on teaching a course on failure.  This could be a great start to a paradigm shift on failure.  A couple ideas came to mind when thinking about this course.  The focus of this course should be scenario based where the participants are put in a scenario that is designed for them to fail and then to analyze the failure to determine lessons learned.  There should be a discussion on the different types of failures (not all failures are the same and therefore should not be treated the same) and how to analyze failures.  A course on the subject would be a great start to have people understand their own perception of failure and understand how we can adapt our thinking to create an environment that will foster innovation.

A few resources that I found interesting and helpful on this topic are:

Edmondson, Amy C., “Strategies for Learning from Failure”, Harvard Business review, April 2011 https://hbr.org/2011/04/strategies-for-learning-from-failure 

Burger, Edward, “Teaching to Fail”, Inside Higher Ed, August 2012 https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/08/21/essay-importance-teaching-failure

Week 4

The fourth week has come to an end and there is only one week left of the PACFLT Industry Innovation Fellowship.  As I reflect over the past 4 weeks I have been fortunate to experience the principles of innovation and prototyping first-hand.  Specifically, this past week I was able to see the principles of prototyping in action as the O2O2 team explored an alternative head attachment for the facewear system. 

In a nutshell, the basis of prototyping is trial and error with continuous refinement.  Every time you create a prototype you learn more about its design and function and can make changes and iterate the process.  By this methodology you will learn more quickly than trying to develop the perfect design prior to creating a working model.  The advent of additive manufacturing processes has enabled the use of rapid prototyping where you can iterate the prototyping process at a much cheaper and faster rate.

The eight design principles for creating prototypes as discussed in “Prototyping – A Practitioner’s Guide” by Todd Zaki Warfel are:

  1. Understand the audience and intent
  2. Plan a little – prototype the rest
  3. Set expectations
  4. You can sketch
  5. It’s a prototype – not the Mona Lisa
  6. If you can’t make it, fake it
  7. Prototype only what you need
  8. Reduce risk – prototype early and often

Most people when they hear rapid prototyping will immediately think of creating a computer-aided design (CAD) model and 3D printing a prototyping; however, that was not the first step the O2O2 team used.  The O2O2 team combines the design principles with the “number 8 wire mentality” in their prototyping process, so when the idea came for a different style of head attachment the first step was to do a proof of concept using materials that were currently on hand.  In this case a wire was bent to a rough shape, attached to the facewear, and shaped to the wearer to see if the concept was worth further exploring.  This quickly allowed a proof of concept before any time was spent designing a CAD model.  The exact shape or contact points for the new head attachment were not determined with the proof of concept; therefore, the next design iteration was created with CAD and 3D printed and allowed for every component to be highly adjustable.  The purpose with this iteration was to determine the required contact areas and once the contact areas are known then the shape can be designed around the required functional parameters.

The prototyping methodology is mainly associated with the creation of tangible objects but can be adapted using thought experiments, simulators, and trainers etc. to “prototype” ideas such as tactics and techniques. 

As I experienced the prototyping process this past week I realized that the underlying mentality of a lack of the fear of failure is deeply rooted in both the innovation process and the prototyping process.  In both instances, you must be willing to step out and try something new.  Be willing to fail and learn from your failures and try again.  Below is an excerpt from “Edison: The Man and His Work” by George S. Bryan 1926 that highlights this mentality embodied by one of the greatest innovators of all-time.

The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments… Although I was never myself discouraged or hopeless of its success, I cannot say the same for my associates… Through all the years of experimenting with it, I never once made an associated discovery.  It was deductive… The results I achieved were the consequence of invention – pure and simple.  I would construct and work along various lines until I found them untenable.  When one theory was discarded, I developed another at once.  I realized very early that this was the only possible way for me to work out all the problems.

Week 3

This is the end of the third week of the PACFLT Industry Innovation Fellowship and there are only two weeks left of this fellowship.  I have been learning a lot and have really enjoyed using my engineering background to help the O2O2 team.

This past week the analytical model was expanded to assess the optimal pleat count for a cylindrical pleated filter to minimize the pressure drop across the filter.  The Auckland University of Technology Bio-Design Lab has graciously allowed access to a workstation that has ANSYS Fluent, which allowed for a numerical validation of the analytical model.  It has been well over a year since I last used ANSYS Fluent and this was the first time I used porous media in the modeler.  I spent some time refreshing on ANSYS Fluent and researching how the porous media is modelled.  The square filter was modelled first and then the cylindrical pleated filter.  Dimensions were specifically chosen to simplify the geometry of the pleated cylindrical model by minimizing the optimal and maximum pleats.  For the test three models were created: one at the optimal point to minimize the pressure drop, and one on either side.  These models showed the expected trend and validated points on the differential pressure versus pleat count curve created by the analytical model.  The analytical model will create the starting point for experimental testing to validate the pressure drop across the filter.

In New Zealand number 8 wire was used for sheep fences and farmers often had rolls of it on hand and could use it to repair just about anything.  Over time the term “number 8 wire” was used to represent the ingenuity and resourcefulness of New Zealanders.  When New Zealand adopted the metric system in the late 70’s, number 8 wire was renamed 4.0mm wire and has since been replaced in fencing by 2.5mm high tensile wire; however, the term “number 8 wire” is still used and more often you hear people talking about a “number 8 wire mentality,” which describes a person’s ability to improvise and adapt in order to solve problems.  This mindset is a critical aspect of the O2O2 team and means that a limited size does not translate to a limited capability.  To adapt and overcome the O2O2 team has created a network of partnerships that leverage the strengths of each to support the goal of O2O2.  These partnerships have enabled the O2O2 team to leverage research capabilities, nanofiber filter technology, filter coating technology, web app development, and engineering/manufacturing support to name a few, which has given the O2O2 team the ability and footprint of a much larger company.

The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility does not have a robust dedicated team of researchers but due to the laboratory status can solicit for research funds, validate solutions, and can conduct/coordinate collaborative research.  If the shipyard adapts a “number 8 wire mentality” and adapts its approach to focus on creating a network of partnerships centered around universities, private research companies, and other DOD research facilities to develop solutions to the problems the shipyard faces, then PHNSY&IMF lab can have the ability and footprint of a much larger laboratory.  The easiest to start building this network with would be the University of Hawaii (UH) and Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).  Since there is already connections through being the largest employer of engineering students from UH and the Engineering Duty Officers (EDOs) that receive technical master degrees from NPS.

As I am writing this blog and thinking about how to apply these lessons learned I recalled a comment at the New Zealand Defense Force Industry Association meeting the previous week.  One presenter gave a very short (~5min) presentation on how she was trying to adapt the engineering courseware to fit the needs and fill the gaps that the employers need.  One person commented that this is the first time that anyone from the academic realm has ever asked what the actual businesses need and what the students are lacking when they graduate.  As PHNSY&IMF builds a greater relationship with NPS there is a unique opportunity where the shipyard can reach back to provide feedback on courseware and research topics that highlight and potentially solves problems that EDOs will be facing in the shipyard.

Week 2

I’ve been asked a few times about the PACFLT Industry Innovation Fellowship and its purpose.  If you look in the past the U.S. military has been the leader of innovation for many decades.  Just look at the results of the Skunk Works projects or the creation of the internet.  These innovative ideas and programs revolutionized the world and created massive industries that would not have existed otherwise.  The private commercial sector has taken these lessons learned and ran with them.  This is how Steve Jobs created the Macintosh computer and the basis behind the Google X Lab, which has created things such as a self-driving car and Google glass.  The purpose, in my opinion, of the fellowship is to learn about the innovative culture in businesses that are developing disruptive technologies using concepts such as rapid prototyping and lean startup methods.  To then take these lessons learned and bring them back to help invigorate the innovative mindset of the U.S. Navy that was once the forefront of innovation. 

Additionally, from my last blog post there were a few questions on what exactly O2O2 is working on.  The O2O2 team is developing the next generation of pollution protection that will feature advanced air filtration technology and a patented design.  Current pollution protection touches the face in multiple locations causing the user to re-breath hot humid air and fog up your glasses among a host of other problems.  Other systems designed for higher levels of protection rely on creating a perfect seal around the wearers nose and mouth area.  The patented O2O2 design does not require a perfect seal or even touching the face with the exception similarly to glasses with touching points around the ears and the nose, all while providing the same level of protection. 

This week the O2O2 team completed the assembly of the feels like prototype and took a few videos of Jerry running, jumping and playing (attempting to play) basketball to show a major sports company that this product with the use a headband attachment can be used for physical activity without the fear of moving out of place or falling off. 

This week we also completed a working numerical model to determine the optimal pleat count for a given filter dimensions to minimize the pressure drop across a square filter.  Using a square filter was the first step based on the simplifications due to geometry, this next week the model will be expanded to allow for the optimization of a cylindrical filter, which will be the preferred design for use in the O2O2 facewear system. 

A very interesting approach that the O2O2 team is using is instead of attempting to complete one prototype that is all encompassing, where it works the way you want it to work, feels like the way you want it to feel when you put it on, and looks the way you want it to look, the O2O2 team decided to break the prototype into three separate prototypes with separate objectives for each.  The engineering prototype is the proof of concept that shows yes this product can be built and works as intended.  As the engineering prototype was developed and tested the lessons learned were then carried forward to the feels-like prototype.  The feels like prototype focuses on how the facewear will attach to the person and feel when wearing it and what adjustments will be required by the user to create a universal fit.  The looks-like prototype focuses on the aesthetics of the design to ensure that it is appealing to consumers. Currently the engineering and feels-like prototypes are completed and once the look-like prototype is complete then the aspects from all three will be merged to create the final design that will be manufactured.  This is a real application of the saying that you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  The O2O2 team focuses on the bite ahead of them not the elephant.  This approach enables them to focus on something very concrete and tangible while building momentum and enjoying the satisfaction of achieving each step.  

On Wednesday I was invited to attend a New Zealand Defense Industry Association meeting.  There were multiple presenters at this meeting and the main theme revolved around enabling New Zealand businesses to develop innovative solutions for the New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) and the contracting/acquisition process associated with incorporating these solutions.  The objective of this meeting was to showcase what the government has to offer with regards to support services and grants to these small businesses and startups that are in the process of product development that has potential uses in the NZDF.  This meeting was accompanied with a cocktail hour afterwards and provided many opportunities for networking and follow-on discussions. 

 Recently I read an email from VADM Moore where he spent a few days in Houston, TX showcasing the Navy to a city that does not have a naval presence.  I believe the Navy can use similar opportunities to merge the NZDF Association meeting format with showcasing the Navy but can even take it one step further and instead of just going if you have an idea here is how we can help and how the acquisition process works and instead taking it to here are some of the specific problems/challenges that your Navy is currently facing.  This can then be followed with a series of breakout discussions on the particular challenges allowing the attendees to go where their particular interests lay.  I have a suspicion that many of our challenges are currently being tackled by universities, businesses, and private research facilities for use in the commercial markets.  Just for instance the O2O2 team is working with Revolution Fibers to develop a nanofiber filter technology that can be tailored to filter out any particulate including airborne biologicals; another company, Makai Ocean Engineering, is developing a biofouling free heat exchanger for use in seawater air conditioners.  Both of these companies are developing innovative technologies for the commercial market that have direct applications in the Navy.  Innovation is occurring all around us in all areas but I think that as a Navy we can better vocalize our challenges to the private sector and we might be surprised at the solutions that are already out there.