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NEWS | Oct. 12, 2023

New Employee Development Assignment Innovation Challenge builds on the success of previous NSWCDD events

By Taft Coghill Jr., NSWCDD Corporate Communications

As the Innovation Challenge lead at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), Tamara Stuart has witnessed firsthand the substantial impact of hackathons and other challenge events that NSWCDD has recently hosted.

The success of those events was the impetus behind the inaugural New Employee Development Assignment (NEDA) Innovation Challenge, which was held at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus Oct. 2-6.

The five-day event allowed NSWCDD engineers and scientists with three years or less of experience to learn more about surface warfare, broaden their technical knowledge base and expand their professional network of peers who are at the same level across the organization.

“I think it’s been fantastic,” Stuart said at the end of the event. “The first day was spent wargaming using Joint Cognitive Operational Research Environment, which helped everyone work together as a team, compete and learn about surface warfare capabilities.”

More than 40 NSWCDD scientists and engineers participated in the event, which culminated with words of encouragement from NSWCDD Acting Deputy Technical Director Aaron Miller.

Miller urged the workforce to reflect on what they do every day at NSWCDD and how that impacts the warfighter.

He then reminded them of the team-building exercises at the beginning of the week that led to great camaraderie by the final day. Miller noted that this is the first group to participate in the NEDA Innovation Challenge and that their experiences will help mold future workforce development efforts.

“You’re the initial cadre of folks coming through this class to see if this is how we pull together our team and future leaders from Dahlgren in a different learning environment,” Miller said.

Miranda Weatherly, a scientist in the Strategic and Computing Systems Department, said it was an interesting week, in part because she was able to network and learn what other departments do at NSWCDD.

“It’s been a good opportunity to interact with other people in different branches that you don’t normally associate with,” Weatherly said. “I‘m now more aware of other things that are being accomplished.”

Brad Sharer, the cybersecurity chief engineer in the Cybersecurity Engineering Branch and the Cybersecurity Risk Assessment and Authorization Branch, helped design the challenge, which was based on an initiative from Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to improve response time to cyber incidents on ships.

Sharer provided the engineers and scientists background on the Cyber Fusion Response Center (CFRC) and gave them high-level system requirements.

“The purpose of this Innovation Lab challenge is to develop some notional graphical user interface layouts,” Sharer said. “We want to demonstrate how we collect different technical data for a given ship class, build and baseline, down to the hull number. So when the operator ashore in the CFRC gets the call, they’ll be able to pull information up quickly and assess what is happening on the ship.”

NSWCDD Workforce Development Branch head Susan Botkin said the challenge is a worthwhile endeavor because it nurtures the growth of scientists and engineers who are at the beginning of their careers. She stated it is an “exciting new program” that will ultimately benefit the warfighter.

“It helps scientists and engineers develop technical skills and competencies by participating on teams to solve real-life wartime scenarios,” Botkin said. “Along with the New Employment Developmental Assignment Program, the NEDA Innovation Challenge enables entry-level scientists and engineers to expand their professional network while gaining a broader perspective of the NSWCDD, NAVSEA and Navy mission.”