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NEWS | Aug. 19, 2022

NSWC Dahlgren Division to Host Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Development Challenge

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Calling all creative game-savvy software innovators at colleges and universities across the nation! Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) is looking for students to compete in its Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) Development Challenge comprised of two phases – a white paper and an in-person event in March 2023 at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus.

The first phase of the challenge is open on the Challenge.Gov website at

“NSWCDD has been involved in the development of AI/ML algorithms to support enhanced engagement coordination capabilities to optimize naval warfighting,” the website states. “For the purpose of this challenge, an AI/ML algorithm is defined as an algorithm that automates engagement decisions that can set or adapt its logic paths based on the performance of previous runs.”

The challenge is to develop AI/ML algorithms for the automated scheduling and coordination of simulated directed energy, hypervelocity projectiles and other advanced weapon systems. Students will unite in teams of no more than five, ignite their creativity and let the innovative sparks fly as they develop AI/ML algorithms for advanced engagement coordination and weapon pairing through a real time innovation challenge event.

“This innovation challenge will enable the validation of new and advanced AI/ML algorithms through modeling, simulation and wargaming. It will expand the body of knowledge in AI/ML algorithm design and development, engagement coordination and hardkill and softkill weapons integration and enable collaboration across the university ecosystem to support advanced AI/ML research,” the website states.

The prize purse is $75,000 – 1st place is $40,000, 2nd place is $20,000, and 3rd place is $15,000 – to the winning teams’ respective colleges or universities.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring our nation’s brightest students together for an innovation challenge where they will have an opportunity to use the same software and technology that our scientists and engineers use, to develop solutions for the warfighter in ways that NSWCDD has not yet explored,” said Jennifer Clift, NSWCDD Chief Technology Officer.

In Phase 1, teams submit white papers demonstrating their knowledge of advanced AI/ML skills, their ability to develop and apply advanced AI/ML algorithms and their strategy and plans to approach Phase 2. Phase 1 closes Oct. 31 by 4 p.m. EST. NSWCDD anticipates holding a virtual panel in early September to answer any questions participants may have.

In Phase 2, the teams will be asked to demonstrate the advantages of AI/ML integration into naval systems and warfighting capabilities. Each team will develop an algorithm using AI/ML to defend their friendly ships against enemy ships of varying sizes and capabilities.

At the conclusion of Phase 2, each participant will provide NSWCDD a source code of the team’s algorithm and libraries used, build instructions for the algorithm to run on the host platform, a working executable for the host platform and a brief describing the technical approach used, key challenges conquered and overview of the results on the test area.

All winners will be recognized on the NSWCDD website at

The 1st place team will be given the opportunity to present their submission to NSWCDD for potential naval application. In-person challenge participants who identified innovative ideas, but were not selected for cash prizes, may be invited to share their ideas on NSWCDD’s website.

This is the second innovation challenge NSWCDD has hosted. It was part of a high school innovation challenge in April 2022 of which 100 students competed with robotics.

“We are actively involved in all facets of STEM, working closely with students via Coding Clubs, Middle and High School Camps, and Robotics workshops and challenges,” said NSWCDD Technical Director Dale Sisson, SES. “As a part of our outreach, we are also committed to partnering with colleges and universities to explore new technologies for solving future naval challenges and delivering more resilient and cost effective capabilities faster to the warfighter.”