By Sgt. Maj. Jose Quinones Jr.
U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- The U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force recently launched ArmyCoCreate.com, a website for Soldiers to identify tactical challenges and collaborate for solutions.
The website is designed to connect Soldiers with innovators and civilian supporters to identify problems, suggest solutions and build prototypes, according to Rapid Equipping Force, known as REF, officials.
This proof-of-concept effort will test the applicability of "crowd-powered design processes" for the REF mission, command officials said. They explained that the website was created to capture ideas of Soldiers with recent combat experience.
"Right now, the Army is filled with resources -- the Soldiers returning home from Afghanistan rich with operational experience from that conflict," said Col. Steven Sliwa, REF director. "It is important to maintain institutional knowledge of what we have learned.
"Though the problems addressed by the CoCreate community may not be theater-specific, we want to determine if this technique can assist Soldiers in refining requirements and developing solutions," Sliwa continued.
Soldiers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate will bring the community's virtual blueprints to life by manufacturing 3D prototypes during two "Make-a-Thon" events at Fort Benning, Ga., Dec. 9-13 and Jan. 13-16.
WHO CAN JOIN?
Army CoCreate is free and open to the public; however, success for this trial period depends on Soldier participation, officials said. REF needs both current and veteran warfighters to join the site and contribute by identifying tactical challenges and proposing solution ideas, said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Asclipiadis, U.S. Army REF.
"Soldiers are living and breathing the fight, day-in and day-out, so they have the best ideas for new capabilities to solve their most urgent challenges," Asclipiadis said.
Inside the online community, Soldiers will connect with innovators, designers and fabricators to design prototypes that may become the next Army solution, he said.
HOW IT WORKS
The REF continually seeks to improve internal processes and maintain a rapid edge, Sliwa said.
"When you have a situation where you need good solutions in a time-critical manner, it is important to be aware of and tap into industry best practices," Sliwa said. "We know co-creation works, but we want to find out if it works for the REF."
Army CoCreate builds off of a previous effort between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the industry partner, Local Motors. The two organizations worked together to design and prototype the XC2V combat support vehicle in less than six months.
Army CoCreate is comprised of four distinct lines of effort. The first is to identify problems.
From the site's "Ideas" page, participants can identify specific tactical challenges for the community to address. Community members vote or comment on their favorite Soldier idea.
The projects with the most votes are most likely to be selected as the main Army CoCreate project brought to life at a Make-a-Thon.
The second line of effort is to suggest solutions. From the "Design" page, participants upload sketches, graphics and renderings for a Soldier solution. Again, users can like, comment or follow updates for their favorite designs.
Designs may inform the main Army CoCreate project or inspire people who can make the idea a reality, REF officials said.
On the "Projects" page, or the third step of the Army CoCreate effort, REF will begin in-depth collaboration on one main project prior to the first Make-a-Thon event.
Site moderators will post detailed Soldier challenge information such as the size, weight, power, operation and endurance guidelines. Community members can select and contribute to the part of the project that interests them the most.
The final phase of Army CoCreate are the two Make-a-thons, week-long innovation workshops where Soldiers build 3D prototypes using REF Expeditionary Lab equipment and then provide end-user feedback.
Army CoCreate supports the REF mission to meet global Soldier requirements, officials said. They explained that REF harnesses current and emerging technologies to provide immediate solutions to the urgent challenges of U.S. Army forces deployed globally.