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Winners of NIWC Atlantic’s AI Prize Challenge Recognized at Eastern Defense Summit

15 December 2023

From Steve Ghiringhelli, NIWC Atlantic Public Affairs Office

Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic presented checks last week to for $35,000 and Quartus Engineering Inc. for $15,000 for their 1st and 2nd place finishes in the Multilateral Autonomy Prize Challenge during the 2023 Eastern Defense Summit.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic presented checks last week to for $35,000 and Quartus Engineering Inc. for $15,000 for their 1st and 2nd place finishes in the Multilateral Autonomy Prize Challenge during the 2023 Eastern Defense Summit.

The competition, which was organized by NIWC Atlantic and its Palmetto Tech Bridge in conjunction with the Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA), was looking for artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that visually detect and classify objects — a critical decision-making capability in Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions.

This year, nearly three dozen participants from a range of both small and large companies submitted proposals. Eight finalists were selected to appear before the panel of government experts.

“First of all, I want to thank each prize challenge participant for the time and effort you invested in building these technical proposals,” Peter C. Reddy, NIWC Atlantic executive director, said during the closing ceremony on Dec. 7. “And to our two winners — congratulations. Thank you for joining us in supporting our urgent mission to be more agile and come up with new ways to rapidly deliver capability to the warfighter.”

The six other companies that competed in-person were Booz Allen Hamilton, Ergoneers of North America Inc., Gradient Marine, Inc., Matrixyz LLC and PeopleTec.

Dr. Luke Overbey, the competition’s lead judge and the senior scientific technical manager for autonomy at NIWC Atlantic, said he felt encouraged to see so many finalists come from small business or nontraditional sectors.

“I was also really impressed by the technical depth of the presenters this time around, especially in addressing unique real-world situations that have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of intelligent autonomous systems,” said Overbey, who has led previous panels.

The Multilateral Autonomy Prize Challenge was NIWC Atlantic’s seventh prize challenge to date and its second one to be incorporated into the “Innovation Pitch Jam” of the annual CDCA defense summit.

Bambi Hoyt, who leads strategic partnership outreach for the CDCA Board of Directors, said it was exciting to have more than 2,000 attendees at this year’s Eastern Defense Summit where they could see their industry peers pitching the latest technologies before military decision-makers.

“Our CDCA members and attendees were able to witness this prize challenge live, on-stage, complete with oral presentations and a government Q&A,” Hoyt said. “That never happens.”

Government prize challenges are designed to make acquisitions more agile by crowdsourcing solutions from the public. During live events, government labs like NIWC Atlantic can not only procure new capabilities on the spot but also learn about advancements in the commercial sector, exchange innovative ideas in a collaborative environment, spark follow-on conversations amongst the competitors and potentially drive cooperative research and development agreements.

“Prize challenges and other initiatives of the command’s Palmetto Tech Bridge are catalysts for effecting strategic change outside the fence line,” said Erik Gardner, director of the Palmetto Tech Bridge. “They help build bridges to industry, academia and nontraditional partners that can accelerate the delivery of warfighting capabilities to the Fleet.”

Sasha Pascual, NIWC Atlantic’s lead prize challenge program manager, closed the prize challenge ceremony saying she was grateful for each participating organization that tackled the tough operational challenge of detecting, identifying and classifying novel objects.

“For naval forces, solutions developed as a result of these efforts can lead to better decision intelligence, a powerful information warfare advantage on the battlefield,” she said.

About NIWC Atlantic
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

About Palmetto Tech Bridge
NIWC Atlantic’s Palmetto Tech Bridge aims to support “acceleration ecosystems” across the Southeast by removing barriers to entry, fostering a culture of trust and innovation, and providing awareness and direct access to warfighter challenges. The PTB’s three primary mission capability areas are cybersecurity, assured communications and data science.

About CDCA
The Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA) supports the defense community in the Charleston metro area, South Carolina and the Southeast U.S. The CDCA advocates defense issues with the community and represents its members with NIWC Atlantic, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force and other government agencies in the area and surrounding regions. The CDCA also provides input on issues and initiatives to the broader community in such areas as education, small business mentoring and congressional affairs.
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