By Jerome Aliotta, GVSC Public Affairs

DETROIT-- To find innovative prototype solutions for accelerating materials science and engineering technologies for Army ground systems, the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center held a flash-to-bang pitch day last week at Wayne State University's Industry Innovation Center.

For the event, 10 companies "pitched" their prototype proposals to a government panel of 14 assessors, who after a 2-hour review selected three awardees based on technical merit, impact and application, schedule, and price/cost.

ATI, Southwest Research Institute, and the University of Delaware were each awarded $127,000 and will immediately commence efforts with their respective government project leads.

ATI was awarded for a concept of working a material and weld wire allowing the government to join a high-strength aluminum that is currently not weld-able. SWRI was awarded for a material modeling effort that will potentially allow the organization to better simulate material effects on blast and ballistics. And the University of Delaware was awarded for 3D printed autonomous bot, built and assembled in a singular manufacturing cell.

"The prototype technologies will look to demonstrate varying degrees of proof of concept through various technical reports, analyses, demonstrations, and/or hardware/software deliverables," said Mike Karaki, a general engineer supervisor who initiated the flash-to-bang event.

GVSC's Materials Division sought material solution prototypes that aimed to significantly lighten or considerably improve Army ground systems or ground support systems through technology areas of interest that included: lightweight design and optimization, advanced materials, material characterization and failure analysis capabilities, additive manufacturing, joining, and advanced coatings or corrosion prevention.

For flash-to-bang pitch day, GVSC leveraged its OTA (Other Transaction Authority) partner, the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC), to support the acquisition process. All participants were required to be part of the NAMC.

"The use of the other transaction authority enabled GVSC to develop a customized solicitation, evaluation, and selection process, tailored to match industry expectations," said Ben McMartin, GVSC's Acquisition Chief. "The pitch day event exceeded all expectations in achieving the team objectives of gaining access to state-of-the art technologies from non-traditional vendors, lowering the barrier of entry for industry, and executing at the speed of relevance."

Prior to the pitch day event, GVSC received 67 questionnaire responses from 33 different companies across 14 states. From this, participants were down selected to the 10 finalists who were asked to "pitch" their prototype proposals for the event.

At pitch day, each of the 10 teams had 30 minutes to pitch their ideas, similar to ABC's Shark Tank, followed by 10 minutes for questions from the government panel, comprised of government subject matter experts from the GVSC's Materials Division.

"Four panel assessors sat in on each presentation and two of them were consistent for all 10 presentations, representing a broad technical and strategic perspective," Karaki said. "We always had two panel assessors who were technical subject matter experts specific to the technology areas being pitched," he said.

GVSC's Materials Division flash-to-bang pitch day team will conduct after action reviews to discuss processes that went well and identify opportunities for improvement.

"FY20 may look to showcase a 'bigger and better' event, covering a broader range of technologies and ground systems," Karaki said. "Opportunities to include other agencies and venture capital firms will also be explored," he added.