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Trio wants to transform civil engineering with 3D modeling

Innovation Rodeo spotlight graphic

Scott McClure, Master Sgt. Luke Rogan and Capt. Nathanael Kohl submitted an idea for a 3D structural scanner plan that was selected to be one of eight finalists at the 2021 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Innovation Rodeo on Feb. 5. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Jim Martinez)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – During the past decade, Scott McClure, Master Sgt. Luke Rogan and Capt. Nathanael Kohl have seen the costs of relying on Cold War technologies and techniques to combat near-peer adversaries.

“Change is the only constant,” McClure said. “Our nation deserves the best possible value for their investment of their trust and faith in their Air Force. As do our Airmen.”

The trio submitted an idea for a 3D structural scanner plan that was selected to be one of eight finalists at the 2021 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Innovation Rodeo on Feb. 5. We asked them a few questions about their idea.

Meet the team:
McClure is the base comprehensive asset plan manager with the 611th Civil Engineer Squadron at Eareckson Air Station, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska. He grew up in Santa Rosa, California, but has called Anchorage his home the last 12 years.

Kohl is the operations engineering officer in charge for the 611th CES. He grew up in Canon City, Colorado.

Rogan is an assistant chief of operations for the 775th CES Fire Department at Hill AFB, Utah. He is originally from Orchard Park, New York.

Q: Can you tell us more about the 3D structural scanner? 
A: We’re presenting a multi-phase strategic plan for modeling Air Force facilities in 3D. By progressing through inexpensive solutions to catalog our facilities, we could end up having our base maintenance contractors update the models whenever the aesthetic of a facility changes during damage or repair. With a low overhead on the contract, we could go beyond the legacy approach and mitigate the costs associated with travel for basic scoping activities, among other things. Consumer grade 360-degree cameras and 3D scanners are an already proven technology that have been utilized within the real estate and tourism industries to create scale accurate, physical-space data in measurable and actionable digital files. 

Q: What problem will your idea solve?
A: The bulk of Air Force Civil Engineer projects and tasks depend on Auto CAD data, photos and drawings that are often incomplete, outdated and inaccurate. This shortfall is especially impactful at geographically separated units and contractor-run sites due to the remoteness, age, owners and previous usage buildings. Using modern tools, we can establish a library of accurate 3D real property files at a fraction of the cost and manpower effort. According to Business Insider and the Verge, these scans save 7-10 hours of survey, measuring, recording and documenting effort per project. 

Q: How will your idea help the Air Force deliver installation and mission support capabilities, improve installations or support families in a better way?
A: Our idea will improve the fidelity of essential, foundational data while centralizing the acquisition of it into a streamlined and standardized facility management function. Mission support groups around the globe continually focus on areas to improve the ability to create and deliver strategies and solutions that bring innovative, agile and efficient programs, products, and techniques to the Air Force. Civil engineering, community planning and emergency response are areas forced to make choices in dynamic, high-consequence environments. Often, these choices are required in constrained timeframes.

Q: How did you come up with your idea?
A: McClure and Kohn: The idea came from CE asset management innovation experiences in both shop-managed and contract managed-squadrons. The idea fully formed through 360-degree photo testing on a $400 million base operations and maintenance contract this summer.

Rogan: While stationed in England, I witnessed this technology being used within real estate and tourism industries to offer customers an accurate 3D virtual tour of facilities and construction projects. When I arrived in Utah, my 5-year-old was able to navigate a tour of Rush Funplex in Syracuse, Utah, using software from their website. There is no reason why the Air Force should be so far behind in leveraging this technology to complete engineering tasks in an efficient and accurate manner.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for the Air Force to consider innovative solutions and ideas for the base of the future?
A: The new class of American warfighter has been born into an unprecedented time of technological advancement, information sharing and data processing. Our Total Force team members are able to conduct high-level tasks within these constructs if we equipment them appropriately.

Q: What are you hoping to gain from your Innovation Rodeo experience?
A: McClure: I hope to gain opportunities for my squadron, my service and my nation, as well as skills for myself. Ultimately, I hope that growth will be what emerges from this experience, and that the future becomes a little more organized for the many who need it to be.

Rogan: I would like to gain further insight into the innovation and project management process. I am also looking forward to working with the team that is available to us in order to refine and present our idea. They possess an impressive array of talents and skills we can learn from.

Kohl: To interact with other teams and discover what the rest of the service members offer for innovative ideas. I would like to see any innovation winner continue the advancement of the Air Force in the 21st Century.