VIDEO: Marne Innovation Center
When soldiers from across Fort Stewart and the 3rd Infantry Division run into a problem, there’s a place where they can start working on those solutions.
Nestled between a football field and two housing areas is the Marne Innovation Center, where soldiers can put their ideas on how to fix problems from the motor pool to the barracks into action.
“We’ve worked on problems from the barracks to the front lines of the battle field,” said 1st Lt. Chris Aliperti, the 3rd Infantry Division innovation officer. “Soldiers are the ones doing the hard work and they notice all the inefficiencies and difficulties that come across on a daily basis.”
One of the first notable innovations was the MCAT, designed by Spc. Salim Ezz, to detect conditions for mold in unoccupied barracks.
Among the most recent improvements hammered out at the Marne Innovation Center was a wrench to remove lugnuts from armored breaching vehicles.
Spc. Spencer Gasaway from the 10th Engineers was tasked with fabricating a hub cap tool.
“He had $10 million worth of vehicles that were inoperable due to what seemed to be a simple problem,” Lt. Aliperti said. “He was able to come in here, build a tool and solve that problem, all within a day.”
An all-steel version runs the risk of cracking, Spc. Gasaway said, and the lead time to replace them is six months to a year.
“We needed to find a quick fix,” he said.
He came to the Marne Innovation Center and began re-engineering a hub cap tool out of carbon fiber. The first design cracked under pressure. So he remodeled it and came up with one that can take up to 80-90 footpounds of force, and only 40 foot-pounds are needed.
“You can make this on the go, if you have a 3D printer,” he said.
His MOS (military occupational specialty) includes being a welder and fabricator and his MOS is slowing getting into 3D printing, Gasaway said. The 3D printer at the Marne Innovation Center helped get the fix back into soldiers’ hands in short order.
“Having the resources here at the soldier level, they can quickly turn to designing a solution and bringing it right back out with them,” Lt. Aliperti said. “The speed and the inexpensiveness of a 3D printer allows you to get a rapid prototype out. It allows you to go from an idea to something you can hold in your hands in a matter of hours.”
The division innovation center also works with innovation centers across the Army to share ideas and creations, such as the MCAT.
“When an idea catches legs, we reach out to our partners at other divisions,” Lt. Aliperti said.
The Marne Innovation Center is now in talks to scale MCAT across the entire Army.
The Marne Innovation Center has the array of tools where a soldier can draw up a design to fix a problem, make it and start testing it out.
“We have the equipment to work on electronics, 3D printing, all the way up to full metal fabrication,” Lt. Aliperti said. “We have developed sensors to help installation fight the mold issue here and we’ve worked on tactical equipment to help our soldiers on the battle field like a tethered drone.”
Though the Marne Innovation Center held an official grand opening last week, it’s been open for business for soldiers for more than a year.
“We’ve had 64 problems that have been sourced, from being on the whiteboard to being in soldiers’ hands,” Lt. Aliperti said. “The faster we can get a prototype into a soldier’s hand, let them figure out what’s wrong with it and come back and redesign it, the better.”
The center even held a “Shark Tank”-like contest to design decoys for Bradley fighting vehicles. The winning entry was tested at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., to see how effective they were.
“We didn’t have a way to deceive the enemy at a tactical level,” Lt. Aliperti said. “We worked with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to build these first prototypes. We had eight of these decoys at NTC and they helped the unit win.”
Soldiers coming to the Marne Innovation Center also worked on training devices for engineers clearing mines and other explosives before they got tested at the NTC.
“If you have an idea,” Lt. Aliperti said, “we can probably build it in the Innovation Center.”