ORLANDO, Fla. (NNS) -- A Navy fellow with the Secretary of the Navy Tours With Industry (SNTWI) program has been recognized for one of the top new innovations in science and technology in the country, during an awards ceremony Friday Nov. 17.
Lt. Eric Stromme, a nuclear submarine officer currently assigned to Submarine Force Atlantic, and his collaborative research team was awarded the prestigious R&D 100 Award, which honors the top 100 science teams and their revolutionary breakthroughs in research and development.
"It's definitely exciting," said Stromme. "A year ago when I applied for this program I never thought I'd be receiving a top award for an innovation like this."
The project he worked on during his one-year tour with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2016 to 2017 is called ACE: The Ageless Aluminum Revolution. His team was created by the Department of Energy's Critical Materials Institute and included scientists from multiple national laboratories and private industry. This opportunity allowed him to gain beneficial knowledge on organizing collaborative efforts and information relating to his Navy warfare community.
"I was very fortunate to get into this aluminum alloy project and to see how I could benefit this effort," said Stromme. "I didn't know anything about the National Lab System or the broader R&D community so it was good to get that exposure and be able to share that with the Navy."
Together they researched and tested a new high-performance aluminum-cerium alloy which better performs at high temperatures and is both easier and cheaper to manufacture. This technology has a wide array of applications to include increasing efficiency and performance of vehicles and airplanes.
The success of this project can be attributed to the collaboration among different entities and bringing best practices from different angles to accomplish a common mission, Stromme said.
"Getting to work with this team, I think it's interesting how people with diverse backgrounds, for example industry versus academia, approach problems differently," said Stromme. "In the Navy, especially the submarine community, we tend to look at problems in a similar way. However in a lab environment there are more opportunities to approach things more creatively. There's a lot of emphasis on making people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise collaborate."
Collaboration is one of the main purposes of the SNTWI program. It provides officers and senior enlisted the opportunity to work with top companies in the industry relating to their warfare community, giving Sailors civilian experience and best practices they can use to benefit their careers and the Navy.
"SNTWI sounded like an interesting opportunity to get some perspective on how things are organized," said Stromme. "Generally it's a one-year tour for both officers and enlisted; in my case a nuclear mechanic working at Oak Ridge National Lab. The program pairs you with a company that relates to your warfare community to try to identify best practices or technologies applicable to the community."
His experience working in the labs with civilians expanded his knowledge on how industries organize projects and enable people to bring their ideas to the table.
"I've learned that companies are changing how they approach research and development, and how they are encouraging everyone to be innovators," said Stromme. "In the Navy there's a lot of potential from our Sailors, this diverse workforce we've recruited. I think as leaders we can do more to tap into their innovations and ideas."
The benefits Stromme has received from the SNTWI program go beyond receiving a prestigious award. It allowed him to gain different perspectives on approaching problems, picking up on best practices, and applying them to his career and the Navy.
"From this experience I'd like to bring more collaboration amongst the commands," said Stromme. "If there's a ship across the pier that is doing something better, we can share and take on those best practices. Right now we rely on personal initiative to result in collaboration, but if there are institutional mechanisms in place those ideas are more likely to spread and grow."
For more information on the Secretary of the Navy Tours With Industry (SNTWI) program selection process, Sailors should contact their detailer.
For more news from Navy Personnel Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/npc/.