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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2015

MARMC teams with DARPA to bring Fab Lab to Norfolk

By Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Virginia - The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Two (MENTOR2) Program began efforts to enhance defense readiness by improving both the training and tools for sailors at Navy Regional Maintenance Centers, NAVSEA announced Feb. 12.


These improvements will support those in the ship maintenance community who will be called on to utilize, maintain and adapt high-technology systems in low-technology environments.


"We really want to see how best Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) and the MENTOR2 team can work together to support our deck plate sailors and civilians, warfighters, and the Department of the Navy in general, really focusing our efforts on the development of the training, spaces and tools required to exploit advancing additive manufacturing technologies and truly enabling a more adaptive and innovative workforce." said MARMC Project Officer Lt. Todd Coursey.


The MENTOR2 team met with multiple departments within MARMC to gain a better understanding of work methods, processes and sailor training instructions such as Navy Afloat Maintenance Training Strategy.


"This visit really informed our MENTOR2 contract performers on what training looks like at a [regional maintenance center], and what it looks like inside the Navy today," said MENTOR2 Program Manager Gill Pratt. "Most of these folks are academic and commercial researchers; they have an understanding of what broad education and training looks like. As far as the environments and the way the Navy trains, they are totally foreign to them. These meetings with the various departments at MARMC are the first of many as we look for ways to help them improve, or make more efficient, how they fix ships."


As part of MENTOR2, DARPA funded the Fab foundation to provide two years of support in material and training to MARMC. Fab foundation is the educational outreach component of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), an extension of its research into digital fabrication and computation.


In order to conduct its training efforts, the foundation established Fab Lab, a 2,000-square-foot technical prototyping platform complete with off-the-shelf, industrial-grade fabrication and electronics tools. Fab Lab is a platform for learning and innovating, a place to create, learn, mentor and develop. MENTOR2 will provide on-site technical training for the Fab Lab technicians and managers, as well as installation of the Fab Lab in the MARMC production shop.


"The Fab Lab will allow our sailors to think outside the box," said MARMC Production Manager Derrick Mitchell. "If they can think it, these machines can come close to producing it. Looking ahead, this lab may prove to be very beneficial for us to create training aids, produce parts that at one point we would have to wait on the original manufacturer to replace. With the Fab Lab there seems to be real potential to create these parts right on the spot."


MARMC's hosting of Fab Lab leverages a creative workforce by placing technology exactly where it needs to be, expanding the culture of innovation across the fleet.


MENTOR2 will be back in April, to coincide with the final receipt and installation of the Fab Lab.


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