Meet the Deep Clearance Team

  • Marshall is a Junior at James Madison University, pursuing a degree in Intelligence Analysis, with a minor in History. He has always had an interest in utilizing technology in order to solve problems, which led him to research more on drones and their uses around the world. Marshall is very excited to see the fulfillment of the Landmines project, and looks forward to helping solve challenges by utilizing various technologies in the future.
  • I am a sophomore undergraduate at James Madison University, studying Computer Information Systems and Computer Science. I have experience pitching and developing innovative solutions to today’s global challenges. I participated in shorter version of this class in my fall semester which led to my researching drones, GIS technology, and VR adaptability. My goal is to develop and deploy an effective solution to gain situational awareness in denied areas instead of simply pitching one.
  • I am a senior undergraduate student at James Madison University, studying Biology with a Pre-Medicine concentration. Due to the knowledge from my major, I have experience with environmental awareness and human healthcare. My goal for this class is to apply my expertise in human body systems and the surrounding environment to a potential prototype, in an effort to solve the problem of gaining situational awareness.
  • I am a junior engineering student at James Madison University. My passions lie with serving my country with the military through aspects of my engineering education. I look forward to providing a solution that I know will serve our service members to the highest capability.
  • I am a sophomore undergraduate at James Madison University studying nursing. Due to my major, I have knowledge with human healthcare and a different aspect on the safety of an individual. I plan to apply this to the problem at hand that deals with situational awareness.

Read the original Deep Clearance Situational Awareness Problem statement provided to us by the Department of Defense.

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Scroll down to access all of our team’s research

Reflections on Our First Steps

       Our team was very satisfied with our first presentation, in which we explained appropriate information about the Deep Clearance Situational Problem that we obtained from individuals with busy schedules and tremendous commitments in serving our country.  We strongly believe that we presented our findings from our interviews in a simplistic matter on the slides themselves, but thoroughly gave a brief explanation of the findings to our audience.  We could improve the timing of our presentation, allowing every important aspect to be said, over ones that are not necessarily essential.  In preparation for the next presentation, we are going to practice going through the slides more effectively than we had done for the previous presentation, and include the use of a timer during our practice runs.  

         Interviewing this week allowed us to to confirm our understanding of the problem as well as test some of our hypotheses from the first week . Everyone we interviewed was pretty much on the same page as the people from the previous week in terms of a solution, which really helped us feel confident in beginning to create a MVP. We learned that we needed to branch out from initial questions to try and get some different information as well as interview people from different fields.

         As a team, we came to a consensus that filling out the Value Proposition Canvas Model prior to an interview does not better our understanding of our interviewees.  Prior to starting our very first interviews, we decided as a team that we would go into an interview already having the knowledge and the consideration of this type of information about the beneficiary in the back of our minds.  We find that this process was slowing us down, as well as beginning to become redundant.  This action before an interview would cause us to lose time from receiving answers and important content from our interviewees, as well as prevention of generating follow-up questions.  The loss of a defined focus during the interview, developed by the preparation of a Value Proposition Canvas Model prior to an interview, could drag out an interview; this is an issue for the kind of individuals we are contacting, since they have very complex and inconsistent schedules.    

 *Team A-ha! Moments!*

Giavanna Verdi

             One key insight from my interview with Contact 8 was the mention that the prototype should be easily operable when individuals have gloves on, and not have to worry about removing them.  Contact 8 explained a real-life scenario when an individual had to remove his gloves in order to properly turn a radio knob on a technological device, and due to the extreme cold weather, the individual got frostbite on his hands.  On that personal story, Contact 8 continued to explain that the prototype should be able adaptable to multiple types of terrain, such as surviving jumps out of planes, and multiple types of temperatures, with cold temperatures at high altitudes being an example that was provided in the interview.   

Josh Talley

            While talking with contact 13 I thought it was extremely eye opening when he began to explain the term multi-spectral intelligence gathering device. During the past few weeks i’ve been trying to find a term for what we are trying to create and contact 13 hit the nail on the head. The problem requires a device that can feel out for several types of data like sound, vibrations, heat, intercepting radio waves and different ways to see through the solution whether it be day or night time. Contact 13 explained that the problem could occur in any setting so to prepare for that the solution should be equipped to deal with it all.

Marshall Grimard

              The two key insights, one from our mentor, and one from Contact 18 which I had this week were certainly enlightening. Our mentor gave us a lot of good points to consider, but the greatest point he made this week was not to narrow our minds to a single platform, but to keep our view of the problem at this stage at a “30,000 foot” level. In this track, he also mentioned that we should consider using a platform which “fits in” within the environment in order to maintain the element of surprise. The interview with contact 18 also yielded a couple excellent points, but the main “a-ha” moment with them was that military academies do have research divisions which could potentially be a source of technologies which have been developed and could be used. This grants us a source of tech solutions in order to give us an idea of the technology already out there, as well as for possible incorporation into our own solution.

Cassandra Hagstoz

             This week I spoke with Contact 10 who was extremely helpful due to his previous work with the 75th Rangers as well as being a JMU alumn. He pretty much was looking for exactly what the other rangers wanted however, he was really keen on the idea of a self-destruction mechanism. He reiterated the fact that the device should be reusable to the point where they can take it on multiple missions but if they needed to double it as a weapon they would like that option. The most insightful moment was that we were worried about the sound and speed of the platform and contact 10 gave really good insight on the fact that although the quieter the better, it is not a make or break issue. The Rangers are already giving up their surprise by using it therefore it isn’t something we need to focus on/ worry about to intensely, which allows us to focus on other aspects of the device.

Michael Zurn

             All of my interviewees for this week were able to provide inciteful information. Contact 9 provided me with a general understanding of the overall processes of military acquisition, but more importantly, provided some current platforms that are being introduced into the military along with some that are beginning to be weeded out. An example is ATAK is starting to replace PEWS. Contacts 11 and 12 were interviewed together and the main outcome of this was having the idea of possibly putting a sniffing device on the solution. This could be important because an enemy position needs to have communications with the outside world. The final interview with Contact 18 provided some new insight on the entire acquisition process for the military services. I also learned what methods are currently used to obtain new systems as fast as possible so that may be the track to look down once the device’s design in complete.

Team Deep Clearance’s First Beginnings

Team Deep Clearance’s First Beginnings

Interview with Sponsors: January 30, 2017

Interviews with Contacts 1, 2, 3: February 1, 2017

Interview with Contacts 4, 5, 6: February 2, 2017

Team Deep Clearance plans to move forward by reaching out to all persons of contact provided by our sponsors, as each of them is aware of the problem and can provide varying perspective. We have began to draft ideas for solutions based on our interview with both sponsors; however, we will continue to dive deeper into understanding this issue.  

Giavanna Verdi:

My “ah-ha” moment was when our sponsors had mentioned that not only is the military affected by this deep clearance problem, but this issue also affects the firemen, police officers and first responders. This pertains to the idea that the users of our solution will not only be in caves, but will also be in buildings as well.

One key insight from my interview with Contact 1 was the mention of an one-time use prototype; Contact 1 explained that if the enemy sees the prototype, then he/she could destroy it or take it.  This lead to a discussion of a possible challenge throughout our team’s brainstorming processes, which is the recovery of the unit.  Another key insight from my interview with Contact 1 was the suggestion of thermal technology, in which Contact 1 had more familiarity with the black and white technology as opposed to colors.  My last key insight came from my curiosity of weight limits pertaining to a potential prototype, and Contact 1 suggested to have a prototype with multiple pieces, as this would allow distribution of the overall weight, as there are individuals carrying machine guns and others carrying rifles.

Marshall Grimard:

My “ah-ha” moment was when our sponsors said that the previous ideas were good, but these ideas lacked the aspect of being put all into a single package to give them the best information on the target. This made it so we did not have to rule out any ideas, rather think about how to fuse all of them together.

My moment with Contact 2, was when they emphasized that we could utilize sensors in order to discover negative space. Instead of looking for what is there, which for some sensors may be difficult to accurately detect, use sensors in order to determine what is not there. Finding empty rooms, how large rooms are, areas which may possibly be a backdoor, and any of a wide range of other possibilities can also be identified to give usable information on top of what is there.

My moments with Contact 3 were numerous and helpful. The first moment was that whatever we decide to do, we need to make it something which is easy to use, and suggested using either an Xbox or Playstation controller to fly the drone, as soldiers are familiar with the controls. Another moment was when he stressed that it should run as silent as possible in order to avoid detection and provide the most reliable, and continuous information as possible. The final moment was when they confirmed two points about using a battery readily available to the military (5590 or another common one) as well as that if possible, it should weigh close to nothing.

Cassandra Hagstoz:

My “ah-ha” moment was when our sponsors mentioned that they had not tried many drone or robot solutions on the battlefield, due to connectivity issues, and this leaves the solution field wide open. Our sponsors also advised our team to focus more on the PROBLEM, rather than the technical questions. It had taken the Stanford students 3-4 weeks before they really understood the problem, as a result of great focus on the technology in interviews.

When talking with Contacts 4, 5, and 6 with Giavanna, one piece of information we hadn’t come across was that the caves they are encountering aren’t just one and done, they don’t leave the station they’re at until the cave is cleared. A really big key insight was that all these guys want something that maps out the area so they can see the architecture of the caves. Contacts 5 & 6 were previously K-9 Handlers, and both mentioned they would not send in a dog before knowing the contents of the cave. When they previously sent in the dogs for inspection, they noted that the connection did not last them more than 20-30 ft. They would rather send in a man-made drone for detection rather than risking a life.

Josh Talley:

My “ah-ha” moment was when our sponsors explained that the “superman” technology (heartbeat sensor) has yet to be used in an operation because it is still experiencing some inconsistency with detecting heartbeat. This allowed for either cancellation of this idea altogether, or a more specialized way to get these monitors more mobile and agile rather than stationary, which was the problem our sponsors mentioned of having.

My “ah-ha” moment with Contact 7 was when he mentioned the durability of the device. He said that they break a lot of things, not on purpose, but they deal with very rugged terrain so the device is subject to breakage. Another thing is the amount he honed into the actual mapping of the device because they don’t want to be surprised when walking into the building or structure.

Michael Zurn:

My “ah-ha” moment was when our sponsors agreed that we are serving them, so they stated that they would be at our disposal for whatever we may need for this project. Our sponsors were really attentive during our interview, providing great feedback and information, as well as providing us with several contacts to interview.