GTRI Supports Creative Solutions at the Marne Innovation Workshop

<p><em>Participants at the Marne Innovation Wor​​kshop brainstorming solutions. (Photo Credit: Sean McNeil)</em></p>

Participants at the Marne Innovation Wor​​kshop brainstorming solutions. (Photo Credit: Sean McNeil)

Soldiers, students, and researchers joined together at the first-ever Marne Innovation Workshop to solve today’s problems. The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) helped host the 3rd Infantry Division (3rd ID) and Georgia Tech’s Army ROTC during the four-day-long event, which was held Jan. 6 to Jan. 9 and focused on innovation through collaboration.

“The Marne Innovation Workshop is the first opportunity for 3rd ID to partner with the Georgia Institute of Technology, and its intent is to solve today’s problems with today’s technology,” said Capt. Ben McFarlin, deputy innovations officer for 3rd ID.

Throughout 36 hours, workshop participants and their GTRI advisors worked to develop real-world solutions that 3rd ID will implement into its organization.

Innovation and Collaboration

The 3rd ID, a combined arms division of the United States Army based at Fort Stewart, Ga., is trying to leverage the current knowledge and technology to aid in a modernization path that includes new equipment, weapons, and vehicles across the division. For the soldiers attending the Marne Innovation Workshop, there was a purposeful focus on enhancing and broadening their intellectual and problem-solving abilities through new industry and academic partnerships.

The workshop aimed to produce actionable solutions to challenges the Army is facing. Georgia Tech students and USMA cadets selected a final list of challenges based on a list created by 3rd ID soldiers.

Collaboration streamed through the air as the teams sought to develop creative solutions to the three problem statements:

  • A data analytics problem to help 3rd ID leaders collect and analyze the right data to help select combat vehicle crews, a notoriously difficult and labor-intensive process.
  • A mechanical solution to mount equipment on the outside of combat vehicles. Current improvised solutions (tying them to the outside) result in the loss of dozens of pieces of equipment and countless person-hours when equipment is knocked off of the exterior of combat vehicles.
  • A solution to keep track of artillery rounds stored and fired out of a mobile artillery gun and report current ammunition counts to multiple command echelons.

Utilizing New Resources and Advisors

Before the event even started, GTRI Research Engineer Andy Changplayed a vital role as GTRI’s volunteer coordinator. He helped recruit and organize the GTRI volunteers to support the teams.

The GTRI advisors paired with teams comprised of cadets and soldiers, and they provided valuable insight and expertise.

“This a great outreach opportunity for GTRI to make contact with motivated, military-focused students and help solve real-world problems for an active-duty Army unit based right here in Georgia,” explained Chang.

In addition to the knowledge from GTRI employees, the teams had access to Georgia Tech makerspaces, such as GTRI’s SEEDlab, to brainstorm and problem solve. A makerspace is a collaborative community workspace where people can build and experiment while sharing tools, ideas, and expertise with other members. While in these spaces, participants had access to a plethora of resources, including 3-D printers, CNC machines, hand tools, and more.

By the end of the weekend, each team produced a list of courses of action considered, a functional prototype (digital or physical), and steps forward for each of their problem sets.

“All the teams did wonderful,” said GTRI Research Scientist Akilah McIntyreas she reflected on the event. “I’m impressed at the creativity and range of solutions that the teams synthesized in a short amount of time. They really demonstrate the magic of prototyping using all available resources.”

Moving Forward

Participants in the Marne Innovation Workshop not only created thoughtful solutions, but they also built a network they can count on in the future. The event brought together cadets, students, and soldiers from many different geographic areas. Despite the distance, they will remain in contact to continue seeking creative remedies for the problems 3rd ID soldiers face.

“This is a great first step in the manifestation of the Educational Partnership Agreement between Georgia Tech/GTRI and the 3rd Infantry Division,” said Chang. “We look forward to expanding and building on the partnership to continue to help solve problems for this nation’s front-line warfighters.”

The event demonstrated how well GTRI collaborates with the Army in the mission of education and problem solving. We look forward to future opportunities to partner with the Army in modernization and innovation efforts.


Writer: Katrina Heitz

Photos: Sean McNeil


The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit, applied research division of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Founded in 1934 as the Engineering Experiment Station, GTRI has grown to more than 2,800 employees, supporting eight laboratories in over 20 locations around the country and performing more than $700 million of problem-solving research annually for government and industry. GTRI's renowned researchers combine science, engineering, economics, policy, and technical expertise to solve complex problems for the U.S. federal government, state, and industry.

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<p><em>Group photo with the attendees of the Marne Innovation Workshop. (Photo Credit: Sean McNeil)</em></p>

Group photo with the attendees of the Marne Innovation Workshop. (Photo Credit: Sean McNeil)

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