How to Sprint with AF CyberWorx

You’ve been selected to attend one of AF CyberWorx’s Design Sprints. Congratulations! We are so excited to have you participate with us during our workshop; but, you will soon learn that our sprints are a little different than most workshops. Today, before attending the upcoming sprint, we’ll review what a Design Sprint is, what to expect as a participant of a Design Sprint, an example of a sprint schedule, and attendee reminders

What is a Design Sprint?

It’s a workshop event where different-minded people from militaryacademia, and industry backgrounds collaborate while working out possible solutions to a challenge. AF CyberWorx sprints develop human-centered design solutions for the modern warfighter. Design Sprints try to answer the question, “How can we deliver innovative and intuitive operational solutions to our warfighters?”

Throughout a sprint, groups of 4-6 participants partake in candid discussions and structured tactics for solving problems. Trained facilitators will guide teams through the design process and help maximize team effectiveness, ideation, and solution-crafting.

Industry participants are encouraged to challenge the mindset of the Air Force, while government collaborators provide an insight into needs and operational functions to provide a cohesive, feasible, and desirable design solution.

Participation Expectations in a Design Sprint

Design sprint participants come in with open minds. Sprints are all about sharing ideas, from wildest dreams to the most practical details. Sprint events generate a wide range of solutions through attendee collaboration and creatively explore problems and potential solutions from every angle.

What to Bring

Please bring a government-issued ID card to the campus and the event. While AF CyberWorx will provide design materials, you can still bring a laptop, tablet, or other writing materials.

How to Dress

Be sure to dress casually while attending the event. ALL participants will be in civilian attire to facilitate an open learning and design environment. Please be aware that pictures and videos will be taken during the sprint for marketing purposes. Appropriate security measures and approval processes will be followed for use of the images.

Internet

A commercial wifi will be available for use during breaks. There will be NO .mil internet or email access.

While attending, you will be very busy. Please plan to do your regular work outside of the hours posted in your sprint agenda. Working on other items will not be conducive to the collaboration atmosphere or project.

Example of a Design Sprint

Attendees can expect both breakfast and lunch to be provided if they fill out the eventbrite application beforehand. Attendees who wish to bring their own meals may store items in a refrigerator on site. A happy hour will take place offsite of the campus at 4:30 on the first day of the sprint (usually Tuesday).

Attendee Reminders

There are a few things to remember before attending a Design Sprint with AF CyberWorx.

  • Pick up your T-Badge with your welcome packet before the sprint.
  • Dress in civilian clothing.
  • Bring any additional materials you might want to use.
  • Return T-Badges to AF CyberWorx staff before leaving on the final day.

We can’t wait to see you at our next sprint! Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and subscribe to our emails to stay up to date on current projects and future sprints.

Deans of Service Academies Visit AF CyberWorx to Improve Sexual Assault Prevention & Response

Brig Gen Andy Armacost AF CyberWorx SAPR mini blog

Recently, the academic deans of all five service academies and US Air Force Academy (USAFA) SAPR leads visited AF CyberWorx and received their first hands-on experience with human-centered design and left to approach their respective SAPR programs with new energy. 

Participants included Brig Gen Andy Armacost, Dean of the Faculty, USAFA; Brig Gen Cindy Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board, US Military Academy; Dr. John Ballard, Academic Dean and Provost, US Merchant Marine Academy; Dr. Kurt Collela, Academic Dean, US Coast Guard Academy; Dr. Andrew Phillips, Academic Dean and Provost, US Naval Academy; Maj El-Len Serra, USAFA SAPR Subject Matter Expert; Dr. Kimberly Dickman, USAFA SAPR Lead; and Dr. Trevin Campbell, USAFA SAPR Program Manager. 

While collaborating with one another and with AF CyberWorx’s user experience (UX) team, the deans and SAPR leads addressed very human challenges with human-centered thinking. An AF CyberWorx UX facilitator lead the participants in a mini sprint that sought to answer the question, “How might the faculty and deans enhance the effectiveness of our SAPR programs?”

Mind Mapping SAPR Mini Sprint AF CyberWorxThe program began with each attendee creating a SAPR-related persona. The persona’s identity could take the shape of a victim, an instructor, a bystander, a SAPR staff member, or any other person that could be involved in a given SAPR scenario. The sprint continued with the important step of “mind mapping,” where participants identified ideas, phrases, and pain points that their personas would deal with in their journey. Next, the participants developed need statements that focused on what the selected persona needs to be successful in accomplishing their goal within the problem statement. The two teams both picked one final user needs statement to focus on during ideation. 

SAPR Mini Sprint design thinking AF CyberWorxDuring the ideation process, the top solutions participants focused on were town hall meetings, recognition of do-gooders, hiring impactful speakers, building teams for discussion opportunities, SAPR classroom focus days, training on how to incorporate myth-busting in the classroom and holding the classroom accountable for inappropriate comments/statements. These solutions aimed to improve SAPR and help prevent sexual assault in the future among all five academies. 

Finally, the teams picked their favorite solutions to further ideate into the prototyping stage. Although it was a short session, they were able to generate further ideas on how their solutions could come to fruition and help improve SAPR at each academy. 

Next steps for SAPR will be to further ideate by conducting a week-long sprint with a variety of participants that could provide the deans with more concrete paths forward. The solutions would aid in the recognition and prevention of sexual assault across all campuses. AF CyberWorx was honored to host the SAPR focus group and hopes that their newly learned human-centered design will aid them in implementation of more effective SAPR programs within their academies. 

SAPR Mini Sprint Attendees AF CyberWorx

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Flight Evaluation App Aims to Reduce Pilot Shortage

 Better Evaluation Process Leads To Better Efficiency

AF CyberWorx OPTIMIS Flight Evaluation App

There is a pilot shortage in the United States Air Force right now and part of the problem affecting pilot retention is the current evaluation process. It can take up to three months for a student pilot’s evaluation to be submitted after their evaluated flying time. Should the world’s most dominant air power be shackled to a keyboard or forced to wait on improving their aviation skills because of an outdated evaluation process?

Both evaluators and students are delayed by a prehistoric evaluation process that the Air Force uses while training pilots. What if there was a solution that got pilots more time in the cockpit and less time behind a keyboard? A computer science capstone team at USAFA plans to revamp the antiquated method of pen to paper to database evaluations with a flight training application called Optimis. 

What is the Problem?

The Air Force has exacerbated its own deficit of pilots by continuing to use an old evaluation method. Once solved, students can go from waiting weeks for their evaluation to just one day. Currently, evaluators grade students by taking notes on paper both in the air and after their flights. Evaluators then head back to the office and hand over the evaluation to a middle man who inputs the details into a web platform database. Unfortunately, this process can take months, which allows aspects from the flight to be easily forgotten by the evaluator while the student is left stagnant and unable to advance their skill set, which includes ‘use it or lose it’ knowledge.

Removing the primitive evaluation method and replacing it with a 21st-century solution will give student pilots the ability to move through the pilot pipeline faster than ever. The capstone team will streamline the evaluation processes with an iPad app that allows the instructor to evaluate the student in real time. When the instructor finishes the evaluation, they will submit the data to the cloud while retaining the ability to edit it in the future if needed. Once completed, the student pilot will be informed of their feedback and begin planning their next steps in training.

Research

AF CyberWorx OPTIMIS Test RunThe Optimis team has found a local mentor with Mind Rocket’s President, Michael Larson. Mr. Larson helped with the workflow, design, strategic overview, division of tasks, configuration management, and process to code for the app. Additionally, the capstone team has conducted user research with their main stakeholders, the pilots of the 21st Airlift Squadron at Travis AFB. These interviews taught the team about the current process and the areas for improvement at Travis AFB. 

While beta testing the application, the team utilized a group of Lieutenant pilots that had recently been students and were training to become evaluators. The Lieutenant pilots role-played as both the students and evaluators using the app. Getting the chance to watch them interact with the application in person was crucial for the team. They learned about the little details which can really make or break the success and usability of an app. Some features that needed to be addressed were button push lengths and zooming in and out by “pinching” the screen. Getting the chance to see people who have never interacted with the app really impressed upon the team the app’s functionality.

Other research has included a trip to a VR lab and an information session on how to program the application, which included both framework and coding. The team looks forward to performing more user research when they visit Travis AFB later this semester in Sacramento, CA.

The Future Solution

Vice Chief with OPTIMIS Cadet AF CyberWorx
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Stephen W. Wilson with OPTIMIS Cadet Test-Driving App

The task load of written evaluations will disappear with the aid of Optimis, a real-time app that will solve a significant time efficiency problem. This app will free up time from administrative tasks and speed up the evaluation process for both students and evaluators. The collected data will also give the evaluators the chance to pool information together and learn where knowledge gaps exist for students. The implementation of Optimis will move a huge backlog of pilots forward with their training.

Performing in-flight evaluations with Optimis will allow the 21st Airlift Squadron to promptly grade students and create an influx of trained and ready pilots. After implementation, Optimis will better prepare the US Air Force for combat by reducing training wait times. Creating an application that will provide more man hours to dedicate to critical mission efforts is just one way our teams are designing the future of the Air Force.  


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Capstone Team Aims High for Self-Healing Swarm

Saving Time and Most Importantly, Saving Lives

When a team of firefighters is fighting a wildfire, how can they communicate more effectively among one another and command base to best save resources, tackle their challenge, and potentially save lives? If a first responder is wounded without their medic nearby, how can resources be marshaled to help them as quickly as possible? If all cell service is lost during a natural disaster, like Hurricane Florence, how can first responders communicate with one another to get assets and personnel where they need to be?

These are just a few of the questions a project team is hoping to research and eventually co-design the technology to resolve. A team of five airmen at USAFA is working with AF CyberWorx to fill a predefined location with a swarm of drones that can self-heal and provide cellular coverage to those in need during times of crisis. The Self-Healing Drone Swarm will provide cellular network capabilities which would include sending and receiving data, text, and video. The drone team will self-correct in the face of vehicle loss due to a malfunction, collision, charging need, or signal interface.

What is the Problem?

The team’s insight gained in this project will provide a solution to many different problems. A Self-Healing Drone Swarm has the potential to aid firemen, first responders, and the public in ways that could save lives more rapidly than they can now. Imagine a life-threatening event in the field where a medic could video chat with another soldier and give him the information needed to save an injured warrior, thanks to the Self-Healing Drone Swarm providing coverage over the area.

This type of drone work hasn’t been approached in this manner before. Currently, there is no related practical application for AI and drones due to the limited battery life of drone technology. The project team is currently in the problem research phase of this project

Research Found

Recently, the team interviewed a firefighter and drone specialist with AT&T, their industry partner for this project. While speaking with the firefighter, they learned about general operations, use of radios, the problem of zero cell coverage, and FirstNet (a network available to first responders for disaster relief). A typical firefighting scenario includes a portable radio with the main dispatch channel and an ops channel around 800 MHz, while the fire chief listens to multiple channels at once. Problems usually occur within urban areas and involve the radio; so, they make due with cell communications. But, cellular is most often used as a backup because it is less convenient. Radios are designed to last longer and be more durable than cell phones.

While working with the AT&T drone specialist, the team learned more about the physical side of uploads and downloads and what might work best for DoD use. The conversation also helped the team realize the ins and outs of the user experience for their target demographic.  

The Future Solution

There is still much more research to be performed. The team plans to perform a usability test on wireframes in the near future. They will also conduct field research at a drone lab in Los Angeles, AeroVironment Headquarters. While there, they hope to see the technical side of specific drone operations, as there are many items that they still need to address.

The team will perform additional research to test their software. Their current software creates drone swarms that have differently defined radiuses to create service in a needed coverage area. The algorithm then places waypoints which the drones move to automatically in real time. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) observes the model and displays each drone as a hexagon with the number on it. It also shows the battery condition with red, yellow, and green color codes.

At the end of the project, the team hopes to launch a swarm of drones with a demonstration of 2-3 drones that can self-correct. The goal for their final solution of a Self-Healing Drone Swarm is to provide additional, meaningful capabilities that aren’t already available to first responders. The Self-Healing Drone Swarm team wants to save lives and time. The capstone project is a great representation of making an innovative Air Force stride towards future operational capabilities through AF CyberWorx.

Flight Scheduling App Team Visits F-15E Squadron For Research

As we say at AF Cyberworx, “If it doesn’t work for people, it doesn’t work.” Recently, a team of cadets working on a Flight Scheduling App visited a fighter squadron at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) in North Carolina. This trip to Seymour-Johnson helped the team shape their understanding of the problem, which will enable them to create a deliverable that drives to save flight schedulers time and effort, and results in fewer aborted flights. The project is in collaboration with Air Combat Command, Defense Innovation Unit, US Marine Corps, US Navy, and Microsoft.

While at Seymour-Johnson, the team interviewed some of the key actors in the flight scheduling process — schedulers, trainers, maintenance crew, etc. — to gain insights that will hopefully help them improve the user experience, build better profiles, and create a better solution with their app than they are currently using.

Understanding the Right Lingo & Functions

Before the team could jump into their interviews, tour, or simulations, they had to learn the correct language and use of acronyms. The Captain leading them on their educational journey introduced them to the basic flow of the syllabus and acronyms that would most likely be used through the day. Priority of the different squadrons and their functions were also explained in detail to the cadets. This included the yearly flight overlay, different types of flights that take place during training time, and even a history of the F-15E. All of this is important information for the team to learn before digging into the difficult task at hand: learning how an app can maximize flight schedulers’ time and user experience.

Hands-On Experience 

The team learned how to schedule airspace with a SSgt who had previously worked with four F-15E squadrons on base. A map provided showed the usable airspace available for the Seymour-Johnson AFB pilots and how it is allocated and distributed. The SSgt told the team about the typical challenges he deals with and a provided them a walkthrough on how to schedule airspace.

Airmen

The team then took a tour through the hangars and F-15Es while chatting with the maintainers. A MSgt maintainer explained the requirements he must meet, what happens when they are not met, how he receives his information and where he must send it next. The team also learned about maintenance timelines for the F-15E fleet.

Lastly, the team had the chance to go to a Virtual Reality (VR)/Flight Simulator Lab where they were able to experience being in the cockpit of an F-15E during different flying scenarios through VR. Some scenarios included the jet being refueled from within the cockpit, an F-15E takeoff, crash, and landing.

The Problem to be Solved

Getting to know the current process for flight schedulers was a key component for the project team. Some key takeaways involved the arduous manual scheduling process, weather-related challenges, and human factors considerations. The team will rigorously research these obstacles and design a solution to either eliminate or improve the experience.    

Airmen using simulators

After having the chance to research the scheduling process and interview flight schedulers and maintainers, the team now has a better understanding of what their future app should aim to improve. Understanding the needs of the users is an important first step in building a solution that will fit the needs of the human using them. Be sure to follow future blog updates on the Flight Scheduling App!

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