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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2023

NUWC Division Newport’s Northeast Tech Bridge hosts annual Blue Tech Demo Day

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

Emerging technologies developed by small businesses with potential U.S. Navy applications took center stage during the second annual Blue Tech Demo Day hosted by the Northeast Tech Bridge at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s Narragansett Bay Test Facility on Aug. 31.

Seven companies showcased their products — which ranged from mobile solar farms to micro-sized autonomous vehicles — before interested Division Newport employees.

“The goal of today is to get the scientists and engineers from our campus to learn more about these small businesses,” said Julie Kallfelz, who was named the first full-time director of the Northeast Tech Bridge in January.

“They each have different technologies that we know are of particular interest to our engineers on campus. So our goal is to introduce the companies and technologies and then support potential ongoing work together.”

Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings, fresh off attending Defense Innovation Days hosted by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance, welcomed the entrepreneurs to Division Newport.

“I know you’re all small companies, which I think is critical to the industrial base,” Hennings said. “I think that’s where a lot of the innovation happens, when you get out of the large, big-box contractors that are out there. That’s what I’ve seen in my three years on the job here — a lot of great ideas, a lot of great technology gets built at companies like yours.

“Thank you for coming out, because the efforts you do are the capabilities of tomorrow, and they are critical for our nation’s security and safety.”

Division Newport has made a commitment to contracting with small businesses, dedicating 42% of funds totaling $299 million to such companies in fiscal year 2022.  

Christian Cowan, the executive director of the 401 Tech Bridge, a nonprofit organization that works alongside the Northeast Tech Bridge to connect NUWC with non-traditional suppliers throughout New England, attended the Demo Day.

“Rhode Island is called the Silicon Valley for undersea technologies for a reason,” Cowan said. “There is a tremendous amount of fantastic technology here locally that we’re looking to accelerate very quickly and plug into the Navy.”

Companies that were represented, include:

  • Bay Computer Associates, based in Cranston, Rhode Island: Bay Computer Associates demonstrated a Wi-Fi data transfer systems capable of transmitting large files from one point to another. For the demonstration, the transmitting portion of the equipment was placed on a U.S. Navy vessel while two receiving antennas were stationed on the edge of the water, some 3,000 feet away. The idea is to replace data cables running along the sea floor by using a wireless signal.
  • Eva Technology Corp., based in Boston, Massachusetts: Founded by Dr. Murat Onen, Eva is developing 100X performance analog artificial intelligence training solutions to replace energy-hungry graphic processing units (GPU) and enable sustainable large-scale training model development. The company will build a novel class of high-performance private data centers to train and license complex AI models far beyond current capacities.
  • R&D Technologies, based in North Kingstown, Rhode Island: The company demonstrated its 3D printing operation that offers a full line of Stratasys technologies for prototyping, tooling and end-use parts in a variety of materials. During his opening remarks, Hennings said this type of additive manufacturing is critical to keeping ships at sea should a part malfunction.
  • Vatn Systems, headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island: Representatives from the company explained the features of its S1 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which is 4 feet in length and has a maximum payload of 20 pounds. The software allows for accurate navigation for up to 20 nautical miles, as well as for precise short-range maneuvering. This AUV can synchronize with other S1s to perform swarming behaviors.
  • PowerHouse Dynamics, headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts: PowerHouse got its start during the COVID pandemic in 2020, when expansive paved parking lots — like the ones at shopping malls — largely were left empty. The company saw an opportunity to occupy that heat-generating space with mobile solar grids that provide multiple renewable energy uses. During the demonstration, an electric Jeep Wrangler was being charged while stationed next to a 1.5 kilowatt system.
  • Seasats, based in San Diego, California: Short for “sea satellites,” Seasats demonstrated its autonomous surface vehicle, Lightfish, by motoring around Narragansett Bay. Lightfish can perform critical missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Roughly 10 feet in length, Lightfish features a “set-and-forget” endurance time of six months — even in the choppiest of seas — and a payload capacity of 44 pounds. It is controlled via a web-based interface accessible on any browser.
  • Jaia Robotics, based in Bristol, Rhode Island: Company representatives teamed with Seasats staff to demonstrate JaiaBot, an autonomous, micro-sized vehicle that can rapidly collect synoptic data in water of various depths. The missile-shaped aquatic drone weighs just seven pounds and can work in pods with other JaiaBots. The team was able to demonstrate how Lightfish is able to launch two JaiaBots.

Highlights for Division Newport employees

Chris Hixenbaugh, a member of the Unmanned Undersea Systems Development and Acquisition Branch in Division Newport’s Undersea Warfare Platforms and Payload Integration Department, has a heightened interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Hixenbaugh was eager to hear the presentation from Eva Technology Corp.’s founder, Onen, about the company’s advanced hardware.

“Their technology presented was very exciting, and it can provide us the capability to update our models in real time on deployed systems using edge devices,” Hixenbaugh said. “This is specifically applicable to our unmanned systems.”

Paula Farina, chief engineer in the Undersea Warfare Electromagnetic Systems Department, said she wanted to learn more about up-and-coming technologies, specifically with unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs). 

Contracts Department staffer Alexandra Cordts said she works on a lot of Partnership Intermediary Agreements (PIAs) with the 401 Tech Bridge and “thought it would be interesting to hear about some of the technology and meet some of the people who we work with on a regular basis.”

Michael Smith, an engineer in the Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department, was particularly focused on R&D Technologies “because of their work in 3D printing. That can help me with some of my research,” he said. 

What’s next?

Kallfelz said the scientists and engineers who attended the Blue Tech Demo Day event were in “listen mode” to learn more about the companies and the technologies being presented. She said the Northeast Tech Bridge can provide follow-up support should there be an interest.

“Coming out of today, we should have a very clear understanding on the part of our engineers which of these companies have technologies we might have interest in working with and possibly integrating into our projects,” she said.

The next Northeast Tech Bridge Demo Day is being planned for late October, when vendors will be highlighting technology involving UUVs.

To learn more about the Northeast Tech Bridge, visit:

A video from the Demo Day is posted here: 

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site- and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.