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Building Momentum: Marines learn Innovative Problem Solving

July 10, 2019

This report originally publishes at marines.mil.

In just one week, Marines and other service members were presented the opportunity to learn a wide variety of problem solving skills using science, engineering, and technology. 

Thomas Sullivan, the director of training for Building Momentum, runs a monthly workshop for military members known as, Innovation Boot Camp. 

“The problem solving aspect has always been at the center of what we do,” clarified Sullivan. “We believe you have to have a better understanding of different problem solving techniques, and not just the one that you’re good at.”

Innovation Boot Camp, operating within The Garden by Building Momentum, allows access to all the equipment and technology to support the course. Inside the walls of the workshop, are wood, metal, and electronic workshops, which are accessible to students, artists and engineers. 

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The students receive a brief overview and challenges in welding fundamentals, computer programing and coding, which helps them build controllable robots, and 3-D printing objects to help solve problems. 

One test had the students design and 3-D print an arm-length model bridge to hold as much weight as possible. Marine Cpl. Daniel Terrazas Jr. from Tampa, Florida, and Marine partners, won with a weight-bearing capacity of 590 lbs.

“We are learning how to do new ‘out of our realm’ techniques,” explained Terrazas Jr., a ground equipment technician with 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. “We’re getting out of our comfort zone, expanding our minds, and learning something different.” 

The reach of Building Momentum spreads beyond its residence in Alexandria and impacts Marines both inside the United States and internationally including combat operations. According to Sullivan, it is easier to teach a warfighter to be a problem solver than it is to teach an average person how to survive in a war zone. 

“It is not too difficult to become a good problem solver, but a Ph.D. engineer will not know the difficulties of being an infantryman,” he explained further. 

Marines attending had to put their knowledge to the test during their culminating event. 

“I’m super excited – I just programmed a wireless controller using code that I just learned two days ago,” Terrazas Jr. said. “I have never done anything like that before.”

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The mission executed has not gone unnoticed by the Department of the Navy. Capt. Jonathan Margolick, the Marine representative to the Naval Expedition and Agility Cells, was present observing the course. 

NavalX assists the process of figuring out who is doing great work across the Department of the Navy, the organization then finds the tools and experts, and get them to Naval service members. 

“You can make a huge difference with some of this gear,” Margolick said, speaking of 3-D printers creating plastic equipment. “We just need to bring more of a critical eye and a little bit of technical know-how.” 

At the end of the course, along with the new skills learned, students were able to take home their self-made gear and technology for their friends, family and fellow Marines to examine. 

“The goal for me is to learn, gather materials, and bring it back to teach my Marines,” Terrazas Jr. said about his time in Innovation Boot Camp. “If they understand and can do these kinds of tasks, than that can continuously get passed on.” 

Marines interested in attending upcoming workshops may contact [email protected] for information.

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