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Design Challenge Seeks to Advance Prototype for “Athena” Collaboration Tool

29 April 2021

From Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket, Naval Postgraduate School Office of University Communications

MONTEREY , Calif - In an effort to modernize the way that research is conducted and shared, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted a design challenge workshop for students, faculty and staff to further develop Athena, a collaborative research tool, April 17.

Athena is currently a prototype tool that demonstrates what it might be like if NPS researchers were able to seemlessly share current research, all past research and even find sponsors for future research opportunities. Ultimately, developers hope Athena will be a research collaboration portal that encourages diverse, but like-minded teams to tackle Navy and Marine Corps challenges and support the rapid iteration of solutions that support the fleet and force.

In its final form, anybody in the DOD with a challenge could access Athena. They would login, use keyword search functions to see if anyone experienced similar challenges, and explore existing research related to the problem. If the search returns no results, the person can then utilize Athena to submit a thesis topic for future investigation by students at NPS.

“Athena has true potential to change the way that we do business in the United States military,” said NPS student U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Ben Cohen.

Cohen is leading the development for Athena, and believes that the program will make years of research available at the click of a button.

“Anybody in the fleet Marine Force or Navy is able to come to Athena and search for information in a problem they are facing, and maybe there's already a solution in place,” said Cohen. “If the answer is not there, you can present the problem to students and faculty who can conduct the research as part of their thesis.”

Helping conduct the design challenge workshop were facilitators from the Center for Adaptive Warfighting (CAW), an organization that trains Sailors and Marines on the best practices for complex problem-solving and ideation.

According to U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Michael Troncoso, a volunteer at CAW and an NPS alumnus, they all came together to brainstorm concepts and ideas to solve issues and problems associated with collaborating across our defense system.  Troncoso noted that this collaboration is necessary to take a prototype such as Athena and make it a better platform useful for an enterprise such as the entire DoD.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Forbell, the NPS Deputy Senior Marine Representative expressed that students often approach him with a yearning to solve real-life problems with their research.

“The students are chomping at the bit to solve these problems, but they don't always know what the problems are or where to go or who to ask,” continued Forbell. “That’s where Athena brings everything together. It brings the research demand and the research supply together.”

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