Center Announces Winning IDEAS for 2020

Program provides seed money for innovative solutions

CCDC Chemical Biological Center Public Affairs | May 19th, 2020

CCDC Chemical Biological Center research biologist Matthew Lux, Ph.D., pursues his IDEAS Program project by programming an Acoustic Liquid Handler to operate in tandem with artificial intelligence to optimize the design of sensors made from biological components

Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD — The Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center Director Eric Moore, Ph.D., announced six winners of the 2020 IDEAS Program. Each winner will receive between $40,000 and $70,000 in seed money to pursue a promising new research idea.

Begun in 2012, the Center’s Innovative Development of Employee Advanced Solutions (IDEAS) Program was designed to give researchers with promising new ideas the seed money to develop them. The goal is to turn these ideas into practical solutions to chemical biological defense needs that can attract customer funding. The program’s motto is “fail fast and fail early,” and the Center’s return on investment over the last seven years is ten dollars for every one spent.

Proposals addressing any CBRNE defense solution can be submitted by any Center employee. This year, the competition began with researchers from across the Center submitting 29 one-page whitepapers presenting their research idea. These were narrowed down to 12, and on January 22, those 12 researchers each gave a formal presentation to Center leadership and responded to questions. The presentations were scored by each of the senior executive service members of leadership, the military deputy, and senior research scientist. Their results were tallied to establish the seven winners. They are:

  • Sprayable Personal & Equipment Decontamination Emulsion (SPEDE) by Greg Peterson
  • Advanced Sealing-Interface Surveillance Technology (ASIST) by Cody Kendig
  • Evaluation of Waveguide Coatings for Sensitivity and Specificity in ICL-Based Chemical Detection Systems by Ian Pardoe
  • Low Logistics Water-Free Terrain Decontaminant by Neil Hawbaker, Ph.D.
  • Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate Design of Fieldable Biological Sensors by Matthew Lux, Ph.D.
  • Non-focused Raman Spectroscopy-Based System for Standoff Detection by Eric Languirand, Ph.D.

 

The winning researchers are given eight months to conduct their study and compile results, at which time they will report back to Center leadership on their progress and research conclusions.

Many projects that began in the IDEAS program have gone on to become fully funded projects. These include the Array Configurable of Remote Network Sensors (ACoRNS), the chemical biological sensor-carrying unmanned aerial vehicle Deep Purple, and the rapid prototyping 3D printing workspace, MakerSpace.

The IDEAS program ties directly into the Army Futures Command mission according to Center Director Eric Moore, Ph.D. “Part of the Army Futures Command mission is to innovate by creating and cultivating a culture that front-loads smart risks,” said Moore. “The IDEAS Program is the embodiment of that philosophy because we operate it on the knowledge that the next great idea can come from anyone in the organization, and it establishes a forum in which Center leadership welcomes new ideas and pays close attention to their potential.”

This year’s winners expressed their appreciation of the IDEAS Program and the opportunity it gives them. Cody Kendig, a research chemical engineer in the Respiratory Protection Branch, won a grant to pursue his idea for making sure that each of the interfaces in a personal protection suit are fully sealed.

“I know from my own experience wearing them that making sure that you have a good seal at each interface, the cuffs, collar and all of the zippers is a two-man job requiring the assistance of a buddy, and even then, you can’t know for sure if you have a total seal,” he said.

His idea was to install a fault detection sensor in each interface location on the suit. It powers a green light if fully sealed and red if not. No formal request has ever been made from a Center customer to pursue this research, so the IDEAS Program provides Kendig with the perfect way to start.

“I plan to start by making a simple prototype in a zipper swatch, see how well it works, then try it on an actual suit cuff. I’ll get feedback from warfighters and keep refining the prototype, and I hope to have fully functioning fault detection sensors for each interface as a deliverable when the eight months is over,” he said.

If it proves to be promising, Kendig has a good chance of getting long-term funding from a Center customer such as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and transitioning the technology to a commercial protective suit research and design partner.

There were repeat winners, too. Greg Peterson, a research chemical engineer in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological (CBR) Filtration Branch, won his third IDEAS Program grant this year and his enthusiasm for the program has not ebbed. His 2020 IDEAS Program research project is to develop a prototype of a sprayable powder decontamination that will come out of a can, much like a dry shampoo spray can. “The idea is that the warfighter can easily bring it along in his equipment and pull it out if he suspects that the equipment has been exposed to agent, spray it on the equipment surfaces and get back in the fight,” he said.

He emphasized that his win was a team effort from across the Center. “The CBR Filtration Branch will assemble the ingredients and make the powder, and the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division will make the prototype of the spray device and the Decontamination Sciences Branch will test it,” he said. “I hope to see this product become a new and improved solution for personal and equipment decontamination.”

Moore was pleased with this year’s winners and contenders alike. “Our presenters had a short amount of time to prepare their pitches, and they all did a wonderful job articulating their ideas.”

Moore also encourages those who were not selected this time to keep trying. “I tell those not selected, please do not be discouraged. Continue to pursue other partnerships and opportunities and consider the feedback you received from the reviewers.”


The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center (CCDC Chemical Biological Center) is the Army’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense technology, engineering and field operations. The Center has achieved major technological advances for the warfighter and for our national defense, with a long and distinguished history of providing the armed forces with quality systems and outstanding customer service. The CCDC Chemical Biological Center is located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.