Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ECBC Engineers Collaborate to Create Cost-Effective Training Options for the Warfighter

Teachers use it to teach lessons, football players study their plays on it, and now soldiers can use it as a one-stop device for training refreshers, an easy-to-carry installation manual and more.
“The Department of the Army and Army customers are looking to increase use of mobile devices for Warfighters,” said COL Raymond Compton, military deputy of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC). “On one small mobile device, a Warfigher has a full library of information across different applications to support a device or even to support the operation of a full vehicle. If a Warfighter is carrying a mobile device, the weight of their backpack is significantly less.”
In addition to being cost-effective, the 21st century advancements in technology, coupled with a desire to equip the Warfighter with a single-source for everything needed, makes the use of iPad applications increasingly necessary. ECBC’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division (ADM) Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch, Technology and Systems Integration Branch, and the Electronic Drawing Development Branch partnered together to create two iPad applications. One application simulates the Husky Mounted Detection System Surrogate (HMDSS), and the other recreates the Mobile Counter Improvised Explosives Device Training (MCIT). Both iPad applications were handed over directly to the Joint Improvise Explosives Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The MCIT and HMDSS are Continental United States (CONUS) devices intended to be used by soldiers directly.  The HMDSS iPad app will be delivered by JIEDDO to support locations where HMDSS vehicles are being used for training.  The MCIT was being used both as a “marketing” tool for the system by JIEDDO, as well as a direct informative device to be used by soldiers on various bases.
 “The Technology and Systems Integration Branch contributed to functional translation of real world data into the virtual environment, Engineering Drawing helped with the virtual modeling, and Conceptual Modeling and Animation assisted with the software development and user interface,” said Kevin Wallace, Technology and Systems Integration Branch Chief. “The great thing about the Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch is that they have the ability to help other branches present their visions and further the potential of their ideas.”
With the tap of a screen, Warfighters can reference the full HMDSS installation manual, as well as train themselves on the equipment. The iPad application gives an accurate visualization of the inside of an HMDSS allowing the user to use the functions that are in the actual vehicle. Users can practice reading the Ground Penetrating Radar which detects metallic and non-metallic explosive hazards, pressure plates, and antitank mines.
In the event of a malfunction, rather than flip through pages of a thick book, the Warfighter can get quick instructions from an easy-to-use-application and speed up the entire process. Wallace noted that booklet manuals wear and tear, and often cannot hold up while in theater.
“The intuitive care associated with carrying an iPad is much different than a book, which can be thrown into a backpack and easily torn and ripped,” Wallace said.
In the HMDSS application, the user simulates driving a vehicle and receiving alerts of potential threats. From there, the driver must determine a course of action to take to ensure safety. All simulations are based on events that could actually happen. Additionally, the HMDSS application allows the user to go on virtual Route Clearance Missions, and includes a full user manual of the vehicle.
While the HMDSS application has all of the same functions as the vehicle and provides the Warfighter with a detailed model of the vehicle, Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch Chief, Jeff Warwick, said the iPad application is best used to refresh actual in-person training, not substitute it.
“Maybe it’s been a few months between the in-person training and a Warfighter is about to operate the HMDSS vehicle again and needs a quick reminder. Rather than getting in an actual vehicle that may not be available for practice, the Warfighter can pick up a simple device and train from wherever he is,” Warwick said.
“The HMDSS application is a functional tool that can be used at the user level,” said Wallace. “It condenses hundreds of pages of a manual into one intuitive application.”
The HMDSS application and the actual HMDSS vehicle were simultaneously in production. With the vehicle development just a few feet away from the Conceptual Modeling and Animation office, the application received updates and changes along with the real-life vehicle, heightening the accuracy of the application. Additional data gathered by the engineers who built the HMDSS were incorporated into the application as well.
“Constant communication between all teams involved, blended with frequent customer feedback and expert Warfighter opinions, helped the project come together,” Warwick said.
The branches were already well-prepared to take on the task of creating the HMDSS application. In Spring 2010 the branches created their first iPad application for the MCIT, which has already been handed off to JIEDDO.
The MCIT application simulates a Mobile Counter Improvised Explosives Device Trainer, which is a series of four modified 40' Conex boxes (CBs) set up in a series to educate Warfighters on IEDs. Each station gives tips on how to identify IEDs, in addition to hands-on scenario training that uses narratives and role playing to guide the Warfighter from station to station. The entire system is interactive and equipped to give hands-on, self-paced training to Warfighters.  There are a limited number of the MCIT stations per geographic location. Shipping the equipment from one location to another, or transporting a Warfighter to a training location, was costly. Recreating the MCIT with all of its capabilities on an iPad has paved the way for a more cost-effective approach to the MCIT trainings.
“With the closest MCIT facility in Kentucky, it takes a lot of money and time to send a Warfighter to the nearest MCIT for training,” Warwick said. “The ability to get started on basic MCIT training on the iPad helps the Warfighter learn faster and is cheaper. Once he can make it down to Kentucky he already has a good idea in mind of what to expect and can get the most out of his training. Then after he leaves, he can continue to practice with the application.”
While the MCIT and HMDSS trainers are the only projects the group has developed so far, Wallace said the experience has made them interested in becoming more involved in the creation of tablet and handheld devices to serve the Warfighter in different realms.
COL Compton noted that he has seen mobile devices used more and more in various areas from on-site biometrics to language translators and more. “The The Army Chief Information Officer/G-6 is creating sites for contractors, civilians, and Army members to develop more mobile applications for the Warfighter,” COL Compton said.
In addition to becoming a cheaper and more convenient option for frequent trainings, COL Compton said another advantage to using mobile applications is their ability to bridge the gap between younger Warfighters who grew up in an electronic world and their older counterparts.
“The soldiers of today were raised playing with video games and virtual equipment like XBox and iPads. Those games can be translated into a lot of useful methods for training,” COL Compton said. “It’s beneficial to take advantage of this type of intuitive knowledge the young Warfighter has, and capitalize that knowledge into training to help them do their mission better.”

No comments:

Post a Comment