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Participants weld steel during one of the challenges at Marine Corps Systems Command’s Marine Maker Training course, held Feb. 27 to March 3, aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. The training exposes employees to emerging capabilities essential to solving future Marine needs. During the training, participants used laser cutters, 3D printers, computers, software and other tools to complete daily challenges with guidance from trained experts on the use of the systems. (Courtesy photo by Brad Halsey)

Photo by Brad Halsey

Innovative ‘boot camp’ teaches civilian Marines rapid prototyping

2 Mar 2017 | Mathuel Browne, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

Marine Corps Systems Command launched its first hands-on rapid prototyping course Feb. 27, exposing employees to emerging capabilities essential to solving future Marine needs.

The week-long Marine Maker Training was held in a portable, self-contained trailer aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. Eight MCSC participants used laser cutters, 3D printers, computers, software and other tools to complete each day’s lab activity. Experts conducted introductory training on the use of each system, and issued related challenges to help employees master fundamental skills.

“We are very lucky to have this opportunity available at MCSC,” said Lance Tracey, director of Systems Engineering and Integration at MCSC. “This training is a great way for our people to further develop an understanding of how to capitalize more on rapid prototyping. I see it as another tool in the tool box for our command.”

In addition to equipment and software, the course covered the fundamentals of electronic circuit design, electricity and computer programing. These skills were essential to the labs, and parallel to what Marines are using in the field.

“I believe the training shows participants the ‘art of the possible’,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, team lead for Additive Manufacturing at MCSC, who helped organize the event at the command. “Marines are getting systems, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, closer and closer to where they work. With Marines having more access to this technology, it is important for MCSC employees to know and understand these capabilities.”

The five-day exercise was funded by Marine Corps Installations and Logistics and contracted out to trained facilitators. The training supports the Secretary of Navy’s push for greater integration of rapid innovation capabilities to the fleet.

“This training is going all over the Marine Corps,” said Tracey. “I&L is the primary funder of this course and similar initiatives as a way to better equip the warfighter.”

On the first day, Brad Halsey, the founder and lead facilitator of the course, instructed participants as they learned to navigate a welding machine.

“The week is designed to be fast paced, almost like a boot camp,” said Halsey. “There is one simple rule: try new things. That is how you will learn. It’s important to continually put yourself outside your comfort zone.”

Each day brought different challenges requiring unique solutions. Participants had projects ranging from creating live motion sensors to designing 3D bridge prototypes.

The 3D bridge challenge, for example, required teams to create two interlocking units that would form a sturdy bridge. The catch? Participants had only a few hours to design and print mockups that could support added weight, reach the correct length and stay together without adhesives. Many factors had to be considered to succeed.

“Working through a short learning curve has constantly stretched and challenged us,” said Joy Champion, a systems safety engineer at MCSC, while designing a bridge prototype on a whiteboard.

Champion later expressed her sense of accomplishment with the training.

“These labs have made us dangerous—in a good way,” she said. “I can really see how what we are learning can be used by Marines in the field.”

To read more about how the Marine Corps is using 3D scanners, click here.

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