NATICK, Mass. – In a beneficial meeting of the minds, Army researchers from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Soldier Center brought their consumer research expertise to the enthusiastic and dedicated students at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The CCDC Soldier Center is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the CCDC SC’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. CCDC SC is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
Members of the Consumer Research Team, which is part of the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate at CCDC SC, worked with students in West Point’s Behavioral Sciences Research and Leadership department, providing invaluable guidance on observation methods and on developing product evaluation techniques. The Consumer Research Team provided instruction on survey/questionnaire development, focus groups, user group interactions, interview techniques, and qualitative and quantitative analysis.
"The alignment of our knowledge, skills and abilities with the cadets' course work and application made it clear to me that there might be a larger opportunity at hand,” said Zachary Given, team leader for the Consumer Research Team. “Ultimately what resulted were these three days of lectures and hands-on workshops provided by members of the Consumer Research Team. Moving forward, we hope to host two cadets this summer as part of the Academic Individual Advanced Placement with West Point. Our intent is to provide another series of lectures and workshops in partnership with West Point instructors during the fall and spring semesters in FY21. We believe that these cadets will have a positive and enduring impact in their future careers. Anything we can do to support their education and increase awareness of the myriad capabilities of the CCDC Soldier Center is a win in our eyes.”
Col. James Ness, an academy professor in the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership department at the United States Military Academy at West Point, believes the classes led by members of the Consumer Research Team were an important learning opportunity for the cadets.
“Zach sent his first team to teach classes in capturing the voice of the customer in the design of systems for the Soldier,” said Ness. “Adam DiChiara, Justine Federici, and Larry Lesher taught two classes in conducting focus groups and assessing the resultant information. The classes were invaluable to the cadets studying Human Centered Design, who used the lessons to structure their stakeholder assessments and plan their voice of the customer collection efforts. Over the next few weeks, the cadets will conduct their focus groups, assess the resultant information, and adjust the design of their training simulation to incorporate the voice of the customer. Cadets will pitch their final product to the Department of Military Instruction in a Shark Tank-like format for their final grade.”
Federici, an engineering psychologist on the Consumer Research Team at the Soldier Center, said the interaction provided the opportunity for students to see how what they are learning can be applied to real world scenarios.
“We provided the cadets with the perspective of someone actually working for the Army who is actually using these techniques,” said Federici. “We shared with them projects we had worked on to demonstrate various techniques and tools in real situations, showing how we used the techniques to get the data that we needed.”
In one of the classes led by members of the Soldier Center’s Consumer Research Team, the cadets were working on developing a cyber-attack training simulation.
“The Consumer Research Team’s expertise can be applied to user interfaces, to a product, to a concept, to the evaluation of a simulation, etc.,” said Larry Lesher, a statistician on the Consumer Research Team. “Once the cadets know what tools are available in the toolbox, it then becomes a matter of knowing in what situations they should use each of those tools.”
“We are grateful to Consumer Research Team for volunteering their time to teach best practices in consumer research, which the cadets are applying to inform the development of their cyber training simulation,” said Ness.