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NSWC Crane data scientists and engineers place at HacktheMachine New York

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | Sept. 17, 2019

CRANE, Ind. –Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) data scientists and engineers participated in HacktheMachine New York in Manhattan and Brooklyn on September 6-8. Teams with NSWC Crane members took first and third in the Digital Manufacturing track. Teams consisting of all-NSWC Crane members placed third in the Data Science challenge track, and another took fourth place in the Hack the Ship track.

HacktheMachine is a multi-day event where hundreds of people come together from all over the country to solve the Navy’s foremost cybersecurity problems. Participants, who come from diverse backgrounds and expertise, work alongside military and government personnel to solve interesting and complex challenges the Navy faces and that impact people across the globe. Ideas and insights from past HacktheMachine events have been implemented and are in use today throughout the U.S. Navy.

James Sowinski, a Computer Scientist at NSWC Crane, attended the event this year as well as HacktheMachine Seattle last year. Sowinski, who competed in the Data Science track, says the NSWC Crane teams had to prepare prior to traveling to New York for the event.

“This was the first time all of us had worked together on a project,” says Sowinski. “The teams consist of scientists and technicians who work throughout Crane’s divisions. Before heading to the competition, we got together several times to go over data sets and plan various things we could do with that data, predict when and how data would fail, and visualize the data.”

HacktheMachine included three challenge tracks: Hack the Ship, Data Science “Cleared for Takeoff”, and Digital Manufacturing “Rendering Aid”. In the Data Science track, participants were given a challenge from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to learn whether data science and machine learning can predict maintenance problems before they happen and keep aircraft like the F-18 in the air longer.

Clare Harshey, a Computer Scientist at NSWC Crane, was one of the two team members who gave the final presentation in the Data Science challenge to a panel of judges, Navy subject matter experts, and other teams. The NSWC Crane team worked more than thirty hours against fifteen teams competing to solve a complex data challenge, a challenge which applies to Crane efforts.

“Our solution relied strongly on understanding how mechanics interacted with the aircraft during periods of maintenance, and how aircraft error codes can be grouped in clusters of related errors,” says Harshey. “We used a variety of data analytics and visualization techniques to hypothesize and model these patterns. Each member of the team contributed to our solution, since all of us have different backgrounds. We all had different perspectives that added to our understanding of the data. In addition, the variety of technical skills represented on our team was critical to developing the architecture to meet the specifications asked of us.”

Sowinski says it is beneficial to team up and connect with participants from other Warfare Centers as well as industry.

“It is a learning experience in an environment that is the right mix of ‘collaborative’ and ‘competitive’,” says Sowinksi. “You get a whole weekend full of software development experience and working toward solving a problem. It is interesting to meet the participants from different backgrounds and see what they are working on in natural language processing, computer processing, robotics, and more. HacktheMachine participants aren’t just data scientists; each person helps in their own way and bring their own strengths.”

Sowinski says the event allows him to gain unique perspective.

“When I go back to work at NSWC Crane, I have a deeper knowledge and understanding of the software and techniques I can bring back to work. I am able to solve more problems because I have a broader scope from the systems I worked on. I also learned how to build innovative and effective teams. Through events like HacktheMachine, we are collaborating with industry leaders,  making connections, and growing the skills of the workforce so they are equipped to tackle future challenges.”

Other participants from NSWC Crane included:

Hack the Ship challenge team

Chris Parker, Bill Hudson, John Strange, Austin Roach, Mike Baladi, Jason Bowman, Nicholas Amadio, Mark Hardman, Ed Bareng, Andrew Payne

Data Science “Cleared for Takeoff” challenge team

Zach Davis, Logan Hedge, Clare Harshey, Avery Pratt, Alicia Scott, Matt Dempsey, Nate Priddy, James Sowinksi, and a mentor from GE – Travis Wissink

Digital Manufacturing “Rendering Aid” challenge teams

Trey Freeman and others from NSWC Carderock

Harrison Holmes and others from industry

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.