Bloomberg Businessweek


America’s fighting forces get improvisational
Marines race scrap-metal “urban canoes” across a Camp Pendleton parking lot

AT A DESK IN A TRAILER ALONG a fence behind a garage, America’s future war fighters are squinting at widgets. If not for the camouflage uniforms, they could be watchmakers, these eight Marines, age 20 to 25, all grasping digital calipers and taking precise measurements of tiny things to put those measurements into a computer-assisted design program and build a 3D model that will be printed in plastic. When the day began, only a few of these men had ever worked in CAD or touched a 3D printer, and now they have only one hour to make a functional multitool.

“The best tool will go on the Wall of Fame,” says Brad Halsey, a tall, exceptionally cheerful man in khakis and sneakers. “The worst tool will also go on the Wall of … Shame? No, failure isn’t shame. It’s just another tool. We’ll call it the Island of Misfit Toys.”

Halsey is the lead instructor of this program, Innovation Boot Camp, as well as co-founder and chief executive officer of Building Momentum LLC, a startup in Alexandria, Va., that trains people to leverage certain democratized technology—such things as CAD, 3D printing, laser cutting, and microcontrollers—to solve problems. That could be academics who’d like to be more practical, engineers who make elaborate designs but rely on techs to actually prototype them, or 20-year-old Marines who could use these things to be more effective on base and in combat.

Innovation Boot Camp is just one program, the Monday-through-Friday starter kit, under a larger project known as Marine Maker, which aims to infuse the basic skills and ethos of rapid prototyping throughout the Corps. Halsey says some of his earliest Marines nicknamed the program “MacGyver Camp,” after the inventive 1980s TV character who could fashion a bomb out of chewing

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