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Home : Media : News
NEWS | March 5, 2024

NSWC PCD hosts inaugural Gulf Coast NavalX Tech Bridge PRIZE Challenge

By Jeremy Roman, NSWC PCD Public Affairs

A recent, first-time challenge to support U.S. Navy needs through partnership, creativity and innova­tion was hosted by the NavalX Gulf Coast Tech Bridge and Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD).

The inaugural Gulf Coast NavalX Tech Bridge PRIZE Challenge aimed to rapidly prototype a seafloor sediment collection device based on concepts using a novel innovation approach. Funded by the Office of Naval Research, led by NavalX Gulf Coast Tech Bridge, and developed through a collaborative approach with NSWC PCD and Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) Ocean Sciences Division scientists and engineers, the event pursued technical solutions for collecting underwater sedi­ment, which is critical to littoral (coastal) mine warfare (MIW) missions.

“[This competition’s] topic was devel­oped in collaboration with the NSWC PCD MIW Directorate, the NRL Ocean Sciences Division, the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) and Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants to address Navy needs,” said Holly Gardner, NSWC PCD director of Strategic Engagement and NavalX Gulf Coast Tech Bridge director. “This was the first time NSWC PCD and the NavalX Gulf Coast Tech Bridge have leveraged the PRIZE Challenge mecha­nism, which allowed the public to help solve Navy challenges and receive awards for the best solutions. This effort also high­lighted the power of collaboration among Gulf Coast Navy partners, demonstrating how this new mechanism can rapidly take a mission need, develop prototypes and deliver capability to the fleet.”

For phase one of this challenge, inno­vators needed to address specific solution requirements to be considered. For exam­ple, submissions needed to be an auto­mated, inexpensive, underwater sediment collection device that detailed a proposed technical solution. They were also required to provide accompanying data such as drawings, components and assembly proce­dures to produce their devices. More than 50 design concepts from 23 countries were submitted for nearly $100,000 in cash prizes to be split between the top three designs that were selected early 2023.

Once the winners were announced, the next phase began when data deliverables were sent to an NSWC PCD design sprint team for review and development of a pro­totype that would integrate features from each of the PRIZE Challenge concepts. These designs would undergo another round of NavalX limited funding and review by the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO) technical stakeholders before the NSWC PCD Test and Evaluation & Prototype Fabrication Division would receive the go-ahead to proceed with its own prototype build, late 2023.

The final step occurred when the result­ing prototype was tested in the coastal waters off Panama City, Fla., in December 2023. The test results were briefed to key leaders at a recent collaboration work­shop hosted by NSWC PCD for CNMOC, NAVO, ONR, NRL and NavalX Gulf Coast Tech Bridge representatives.

“I was delighted to spend time with the design team and learn more about the prototype developed under the PRIZE challenge. The design and prototype are a significant step towards defining an inno­vative solution for seabed sampling,” said Andrea Perles, NSWC PCD MIW director. “The potential to augment and expedite oceanographic products for best available knowledge of the maritime battlespace is an amazing accomplishment.”

The device that was developed and tested is the Navy’s first and only solution for unmanned underwater sediment sam­pling. The technologies will continue to be refined for fleet needs and will be demon­strated as part of a series of demonstrations and events to be held by regional Navy partners in support of an Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX).