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Lts. JaMerra Turner and Joanna Cruz

MS in Computer Science '22 and MS in Computer Science – Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation '22

Lt. JaMerra Turner

U.S. Navy Lt. JaMerra Turner graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School inJune 2022 with an MS in Computer Science. Turner’s thesis topic was SupportingMission Planning Using A Persistent Augmented Environment. Prior to NPS, as anInformation Professional Officer, Turner was the Communications Officer onboardUSS Carney (DDG 64). she is currently assigned to 556 Cyber Protection Team(CPT) as the 556 CPT Team Lead located in Pensacola, Florida.

Lt. Joanna Cruz

U.S. Navy Lt. Joanna Cruz graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in September 2022 with an MS in Computer Science specializing in Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulation (Moves). Her thisSupporting Mission Planning Using A Persistent Augmented Environment. Prior to NPS, as a Surface Warfare Officer, Cruz was the Anti-Terrorism Officer, onboard USS Bunker Hill (CG 52). She is currently assigned to USS John L.Canley (ESB 6) as the Combat Systems Officer located in San Diego, California.

What led you to the Naval Postgraduate School and what factors led to your areas of study while attending NPS? What was the most impactful part of your studies at NPS? 


Turner:  Originally I was slated for a billet in Maryland, but decided that I wanted to pursue my Master’s at NPS with a focus in Information Systems.  After talking to several NPS alumni about my aspirations and the different programs offered at NPS,  I reached out to my detailer to see if that option was available even though I was “penciled in” for a billet in Maryland.  To my surprise my detailer agreed to change my billet to attend NPS under the Cyber Systems and Operations (CSO) program. 

The most impactful part of my studies at NPS was learning the complexities of cyber and cyber systems.  Since cyber systems are interconnected with other systems and/or critical infrastructures that are susceptible to multiple threats, the CSO curriculum exposed me to different courses that allowed me to understand the role of cyberspace and how to identify and analyze different threats in addition to creating mission plans at a strategic level that could be applied in the Fleet.


Cruz: An open billet for the Computer Science (CS) Masters program was available due to my Aerospace Engineering Bachelors of Science undergraduate degree. Additionally, NPS aligned with my personal goals to be physically close to my boyfriend at the time (now husband) who was stationed in Naval Air Station Sacramento as a U.S. Coast Guard C-27 Pilot. 

The CS Masters program required students to choose a specific specialization within the CS program in which I was drawn to the Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulations (MOVES) specialization. I was drawn to it because as a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO), part of our training pipeline includes using the Conning Officer Virtual Environment (COVE) Simulator to teach us how to effectively drive U.S. Naval Vessels. It was fascinating to find that the CS program could give me an avenue to also study virtual environments that can apply to future SWO applications.

The most impactful part of my studies was the fruit of our thesis labor using Unity and the Microsoft HoloLens 2 to project the visualization of our ideas into an applicable study that almost all participants stated needed to be implemented in the Fleet now.


Rapid advancements in human-machine interface technologies will have a multitude of benefits for our service members and warfighting capabilities. In what ways did your NPS education shape your understanding of digital technologies and how you think about application in current and future battlespaces? 


Turner: NPS does a great job of introducing CSO students to digital technologies by first understanding the concept of coding.  As you progress through the curriculum you're introduced to the formal foundations and practices of Computer Science that include artificial intelligence and machine learning.  My education increased my understanding of how operating systems and technology interface with each other within the code of a system that allows users to effortlessly operate an application or device. Digital technologies and the innovation of such applications can shape the current and future battlespace by maximizing our resources while decreasing unnecessary time within our forces by digitizing traditional systems.  

Cruz: The CS program specializing in MOVES allowed me to better understand the human and computer interaction as an end user (a person who uses the computer or program or application). For example, understanding how to develop an application from scratch and testing it on multiple students to demonstrate the iterative process of improving a program or a usability study was eye opening.  Understanding how a single application or a single program is perceived by an end user, ultimately gives insight to how systems and programs are developed and applied and later improved upon for user experience (UX). This helps us understand if an application or program is effective in the way it was created for and will help the Navy understand if current or future technologies meet the need of the end user actually using it in the Fleet and if not, how to improve it.


What do you think are NPS' greatest strengths in changing the military's mindset about innovating and adopting emerging technologies? How does the interdisciplinary environment at NPS enable students to address operational challenges and develop solutions?  


NPS’ greatest strength is bringing a melting pot of perspectives and expertise into one location to attack multiple problems in the fleet.  The diversity within the student body, which includes not only service members from multiple branches, but civilians, allows current technologies or applications used within the Navy or other branches to be thoroughly researched to determine if methodologies within NPS theses can be adopted to improve warfighting.

The interdisciplinary environment at NPS allows different perspectives and backgrounds to see improvements of pitfalls between two or more disciplines, or warfare areas, that would have never been identified if students were separated. For example, having JPME where there are Army and Navy Officers to discuss the course topics opened the eyes of each Officer to their sister military branches and how they dealt with a similar problem regardless of if it was for better or for worse. It starts the conversations of similarities and differences that can either tear down an organization or build it up.


How did you choose your thesis topic and how did your varied backgrounds and expertise come together to support your research?  


The CS and CSO program has a class called “Research Methods in Computer Science” that introduces students (who are about to start their thesis work) to professors of each department that talk about their current thesis work and the work of other students that they have advised. Through seeing the variety of thesis specialties between multiple professors, it gave us ideas on topics we were interested in and thus which professor to start talking to. Through this, we found Dr. Amela Sadagic due to her work with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) onboard Naval ships. Since we both were subject matter experts (SME) in our respective job fields (Joanna as a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) and JaMerra as an Information Professional (IP Officer)), we were able to develop a research topic for our thesis based on our backgrounds and apply it to AR.


How would the widespread implementation of your concept of “Supporting Mission Planning with a Persistent Augmented Environment” impact the DON and DOD? How does your research potentially help in a future multi-domain battlespace? 


The widespread implementation of our thesis concept can be used by different warfare areas to increase situational awareness and minimize the amount of time to depict the operational picture in a particular Fleet.  Implementing our thesis concept can enhance situational awareness amongst cross communities in a multi-domain battlespace arena, allowing composite warfare commanders the ability to input and visualize data in real-time in support of air warfare, surface warfare, submarine warfare, ballistic warfare, and strike warfare.  

The Navy currently lacks the body of research in using AR technology to improve the understanding of  complex  systems  or  simply  receive  critical  information in  a timely and effective manner. Since our thesis was focused on conducting a usability study to determine if traditional methods of 2D information (i.e powerpoints) can be converted into 3D information while still comprehending information in a timely manner onboard a 3D Naval ship, the results of our study provide the DoN with the necessary insights and motivation to examine the value of  AR and Persistent Augmented Environment (PAE) -like systems more thoroughly and systematically.

The system’s overall value also includes its ability to connect teams and team  members  who  are  either  co-located  or  connected  from  remote  locations.  With  the PAE supporting the real-time operation and having access to historical data sets, the new capabilities provided by PAE-like systems to individuals and entire crews could represent a much needed critical advantage in their operational readiness especially in a multi-domain battlespace.


What type of continued research would you like to see done on your thesis project “Supporting Mission Planning with a Persistent Augmented Environment?” 


Future work in the realm of persistent and AR environments plays a vital role in the Navy’s efforts to improve combat readiness throughout the fleet. Our usability study allowed  us  to  collect  many  recommendations  provided  by  the  NPS  Naval  students; collectively, they have 207 years of experience in the military domain. The experience with the PAE prototype allowed us to consider the use of a similar system in the context of Navy specific  warfare  areas,  whether  it  was  SWO,  IP,  Cryptologic Warfare (CW),  or  Engineering Duty Officer (EDO). 

In  this  study,  we focused on visualizing the cyber warfare area. However, based on the data we collected from  the  participants,  we  identified  multiple  warfare  areas  and readiness conditions  in  which  the  PAE  can  be  effectively used in the future.  The  main  contribution this research has in  all  those domains would be the improvement of comprehension required to understand these complex warfare areas and the decrease of time in the decision making process required for mission planning responses. 

By leveraging the knowledge and information accessed from the cyber environment and leveraging the capabilities of AR to present information through 3D visualization, it will result in better comprehension and faster decision, improving mission planning and situational awareness. These warfare areas include Surface Warfare (SUW), Air Warfare (AW), Anti submarine Warfare (ASW), Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), Strike Warfare,    and    Joint    Operations.    Readiness    conditions    include    communications, engineering,  Damage  Control  (DC),  navigation,  maintenance  and  troubleshooting,  and training.

Are there other DOD challenges that you would like to see addressed through similar data visualization concepts? 

We would like to see an application designed to visualize the interconnections within a single ship to increase situational awareness.  Another use would be for ship recertifications or watchstander training by creating a training environment that uses visualized data concepts in an AR  environment that could allow training teams to create separate  network  systems  meant to  simulate  multiple training  objectives without fear of manipulating live equipment. 

Have you continued to work on your thesis project “Supporting Mission Planning with a Persistent Augmented Environment?” If so, how?


No. However our thesis advisor, Dr. Amela Sadagic is working to use our thesis as a baseline in her future classes to help students understand the entire thesis process (from idea inception, planning and development, Institutional Review Board (IRB) process, usability study testing, data collection and analysis etc) as well as working with any student who is willing to focus on the “Future Work” section of our thesis.  Our thesis has potential to support faster and improved situational awareness and decision-making in complex environments between diverse communities. 

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