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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2021

NSWCDD iLab Hosts Wargaming Hackathon with Summer Interns

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

The task? Design a destroyer to escort a WWII-era Allied convoy to U.S. waters while avoiding Axis submarine attacks. The tasked? Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) summer interns.

On July 27, NSWCDD interns representing every technical department across the warfare center engaged in a wargaming hackathon at NSWCDD’s Innovation Lab (iLab).

“This event most definitely gave me a better idea of my piece in supporting the warfighter and how everything my department works on affects the warfighter,” said Jacob Michalick, an intern in the Strategic and Computing Systems Department.

The wargaming scenarios, designed by analysts from the Modeling and Simulation Tools Branch, are housed in a program called Modeling and Simulation Toolbox, or MAST.

MAST is a low-fidelity modeling and simulation tool designed for rapid runtime and flexibility of use. “It’s wargaming, it’s what-if studies, it’s trade space analysis – MAST is pretty flexible which is a key component of it,” said NSWCDD Force Analysis and Strategic Studies Analyst Josh Shiben.

After a few good mornings, hellos and an introduction to the iLab, interns dove into an exhaustive MAST bootcamp.

“This tool is perfect for this type of [event],” said Modeling and Simulation Tools Architect Mike Maldonado. “You can start using MAST without having deep programming knowledge. You can build a scenario quickly and start using it almost right away.”

Development on MAST first began at Dahlgren in 2012 and has since found use in various departments across NSWCDD. Users can populate the open-world, sandbox style simulator with numerous agents such as friendly or hostile ships, submarines, aircraft or weapons.

“The primary goal of the competition was to provide a creative way to introduce interns to behavior-based modeling and simulation and warfare analysis,” said iLab Deputy Director Tamara Stuart. Competitors were challenged to save as many friendly ships in convoy as possible, while spending the least amount of money.

Each team began with one hollow, unarmed destroyer and was given a budget to work within as well as a list of variously priced systems from which they could choose to equip their ship. Different combat systems, radar, sonar and even additional destroyers composed the list – each system came with a price.

With each round of the three-round event, the teams received progressively less time to prepare the most effective load-out for the least expense. During the allotted time, teams pitted as many different configurations as they could against mock hostiles in MAST.

Moments of hushed voices, utter frustration and boisterous excitement abounded in the iLab as teams prepared to protect their convoy from attack scenarios created by the judges.

The room was filled with good-natured competitive spirit and the scores were close among the seven teams until the competition’s last moments. In the end, the team of interns from the Strategic and Computing Systems Department claimed victory at the iLab’s first-ever intern hackathon.

“It took a lot of problem solving on top of teamwork,” said Michalick, a member of the winning team. “It wasn’t just one person’s idea that brought it all together, it was definitely a culmination of everyone hashing it out and coming to one final consensus.”