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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2022

NSWC Dahlgren Division Hosts New Employee MAST Hackathon

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Imagine all that stands between you and surviving the next few minutes in a vessel in the middle of the ocean is a small calculation. You keep looking over your work and you assure your superior it is correct. With a swift press of a button, relief is brought to the ship as you safely eliminate the impending threat.

While this may seem like an action scene from a movie, this was the scene set for Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) new employees during a recent Modeling and Simulation Toolbox (MAST) Hackathon held in the Innovation Lab (iLab). Earlier this summer, a similar MAST Hackathon was held for interns to practice their skills and put their knowledge to the test. After the success of the event, it was clear that the Hackathon would be beneficial for new employees.

iLab Director Tamara Stuart spoke about the advantages of hosting hackathons for new employees. “The next generation of scientists and engineers can see the big picture of what they’re working on in their technical work. This gives them that big picture view of how their work fits into the whole system.”

The event kicked off with a few words from Daryl Wynn, NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity’s Modeling and Simulation Analysis Director. He discussed the importance of using accurate data. “The key is data. It’s important to put in the right data. If the data is right, then we are approaching what could happen in real life.”

Wynn explained to the new employees that the data collected from models and simulations is an imperative tool. “Decision makers on all sides of the Navy are always trying to make those hard calls. Modeling and simulation work, and the analysis you can deliver from those simulations, can help those decision makers make more informed choices.”

While decision makers do not solely rely on simulation data, Wynn elaborated why that information is collected. “It is a piece of the puzzle that those decision makers have,” Wynn said. “It is important that we make models that give us credible, relevant and usable results.”

After opening remarks, the participants underwent MAST “boot camp” to learn the basics of the system. Participants were able to ask questions and practice simulations before diving into the competition. During the afternoon portion of the event, participants were given three different scenarios to maneuver, each one more challenging than the previous, and each scenario worth more points. The overall score for the team was determined by how much money was spent and how many ships were saved during the simulation.

The new employees were split into teams based on their department with members across different branches. A majority of participants had only worked at NSWCDD for a few months and experience ranged from recent graduates to retired service members. Teams implemented a wide variety of tactics to accomplish their missions using a combination of different applications within MAST.

Analyst Joshua Shiben from the Warfare Analysis and Digital Modeling Department provided assistance and expertise to the participants as he worked with the development, design and debugging of MAST. Shiben walked the participants through the basics of using MAST and spoke about the value of holding hackathons for not just interns, but for new employees. “It is valuable for both interns and new employees because they are using their skills to solve a holistic problem. It teaches them how to use MAST, and they can apply this work to their branches.”

In the end, the winning team was made up of three members, Isaac Erickson, Micah Webb, and Matthew O’Cadiz, from the Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department and the Warfare Analysis and Digital Modeling Department. Erickson spoke about the collaboration between the teammates. “I think communication was key,” Erickson expressed. “All three of us had different gifts that we brought to the table, but more than anything, no one dominated everything. Everyone was equal and shared ideas, and I think that is what led to our success.”