ECBC engineers collaborate to create cost-effective training options
November 19, 2012
- ECBC has created two iPad applications
- "The Soldiers of today were raised playing with video games and virtual equipment like XBox and iPads. Those games can be translated into a lot of useful methods for training."
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Teachers use it to teach. Football players study their plays on it. And now Soldiers can use it for one-stop training refreshers and an easy-to-carry installation manual.
In addition to being cost-effective, 21st-century advancements in technology, coupled with a desire to equip the Warfighter with a single-source for every need, makes the use of iPad applications increasingly necessary.
"The Department of the Army and Army customers are looking to increase use of mobile devices for Warfighters," said Col. Raymond Compton, former military deputy of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. "On one small mobile device, a Warfighter has a full library of information across different applications to support a device or even to support the operation of a full vehicle.
"If a Warfighter is carrying a mobile device, the weight of their backpack is significantly less," he added.
ECBC's Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch, Technology and Systems Integration Branch, and the Electronic Drawing Development Branch have partnered to create two iPad applications. One simulates the Husky Mounted Detection System Surrogate, the other recreates the Mobile Counter Improvised Explosives Device Training.
Both iPad applications were given to the Joint Improvise Explosives Device Defeat Organization. The MCIT and HMDSS devices are intended to be used by Soldiers. The HMDSS iPad app will be delivered by JIEDDO to support locations where HMDSS vehicles are used for training.
The MCIT was used as a "marketing" tool for the system by JIEDDO, as well as a direct informative device to be used by Soldiers on installations.
"The Technology and Systems Integration Branch contributed to functional translation of real-world data into the virtual environment. Engineering Drawing helped with the virtual modeling, and Conceptual Modeling and Animation assisted with the software development and user interface," said Kevin Wallace, Technology and Systems Integration branch chief. "The great thing about the Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch is that they have the ability to help other branches present their visions and further the potential of their ideas."
With the tap of a screen, Soldiers can reference the full HMDSS installation manual, and train on the equipment. The iPad application gives an accurate visualization of the inside of an HMDSS allowing the user access to use the functions in the actual vehicle. They can practice reading the Ground Penetrating Radar to detect metallic and non-metallic explosive hazards, pressure plates and antitank mines.
If there is a malfunction, rather than flip through pages of a thick book, the Warfighter can quickly get instructions from an easy-to-use-application. Wallace said that paper manuals wear and tear and often do not hold up in theater.
"The intuitive care associated with carrying an iPad is much different than a book, which can be thrown into a backpack and easily torn and ripped," Wallace said.
HMDSS iPAD APPLICATION
In the HMDSS application, the user simulates driving a vehicle and receives alerts of potential threats. The driver must determine a safe course of action. All simulations are reality based. The application allows the user to go on virtual Route Clearance Missions and has a full user manual for the vehicle.
While the HMDSS application has the same functions as the vehicle and provides the Warfighter with a detailed model of the vehicle, the iPad application is best used for refresher training, not substitute it, said Jeff Warwick, Conceptual Modeling and Animation branch chief.
"Maybe it's been a few months between the in-person training and a Warfighter is about to operate the HMDSS vehicle again and needs a quick refresher. The Warfighter can pick up a simple device and train from wherever he is," Warwick said.
"The HMDSS application is a functional tool that can be used at the user level," Wallace said. "It condenses hundreds of pages of a manual into one intuitive application."
The HMDSS application and the actual HMDSS vehicle were simultaneously produced. With the vehicle development just a few feet away from the Conceptual Modeling and Animation office, the application received updates and changes along with the real-life vehicle, heightening the accuracy of the application. Additional data gathered by the engineers who built the HMDSS were incorporated into the application as well.
"Constant communication between all teams involved, blended with frequent customer feedback and expert Warfighter opinions, helped the project come together," Warwick said.
MCIT iPAD APPLICATION
The branches were well-prepared to create the HMDSS application. In spring 2010 they created their first iPad application for the MCIT, which has been handed off to JIEDDO.
The MCIT application simulates a Mobile Counter Improvised Explosives Device Trainer, a series of four modified 40-foot conex boxes set up in a series to educate Warfighters on IEDs. Each station offers tips on how to identify IEDs, plus hands-on scenario training that uses narratives and role playing to guide the Warfighter from station to station. The entire system is interactive and equipped for hands-on, self-paced training.
A limited number of the MCIT stations are available per geographic location. Shipping the equipment from one location to another, or transporting a Soldier to a training location, was costly. Recreating the MCIT with all of its capabilities on an iPad is a more cost-effective approach to MCIT training.
"With the closest MCIT facility in Kentucky, it takes a lot of money and time to send a Warfighter to the nearest MCIT for training," Warwick said. "The ability to get started on basic MCIT training on the iPad helps the Warfighter learn faster and is cheaper. Once he makes it down to Kentucky, he has a good idea of what to expect and can get the most out of his training. After he leaves, he can continue to practice with the application."
While the MCIT and HMDSS trainers are the only projects the group has developed, Wallace said the experience has made them interested in becoming more involved in the creation of tablet and handheld devices to serve the Soldier in different realms.
Compton said he has seen mobile devices frequently used in areas such as on-site biometrics and language translators.
"The Army Chief Information Officer/G-6 is creating sites for contractors, civilians, and Army members to develop more mobile applications for the Warfighter," Compton said.
In addition to becoming a cheaper and more convenient option for frequent training, Compton said another advantage is the mobile apps' ability to bridge the gap between younger Warfighters who grew up in an electronic world and their older counterparts.
"The Soldiers of today were raised playing with video games and virtual equipment like XBox and iPads. Those games can be translated into a lot of useful methods for training," Compton said. "It's beneficial to take advantage of this type of intuitive knowledge the young Warfighter has, and turn that knowledge into training to help them do their mission better."