The Mobile Field Kit (MFK) is a Command and Control (C2) system designed for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) detection and situational awareness. Developed shortly after 9/11 for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community, it has since become a government program of record and is widely used by the Army and National Guard as their sensor integration platform.
I worked on this project for 8 years and played multiple roles. My primary responsibility was that of a Product Architect where I was in charge of creating new products and features. This could range from integrating radiation sensors to designing the architecture for a new series of work. Unfortunately, most of this work cannot be shared publicly, but I can discuss the processes and methodologies I implemented and how I helped shape the team.
The above photo is a stack of paper wireframes generated for just one month of work. During my tenure on the project, every item that was added to the MFK went through my wireframe process. This process began with a discovery phase, where we would identify the new feature, its purpose, intended users and how it would be used. This information would then be shared in a kick-off meeting with representatives from each team involved (Product Owners, Developers, QA, etc.) to ensure that everyone was on board with the new feature and had the opportunity to provide input.
Next, my team and I would brainstorm and create multiple workflows and wireframe options for the feature. We would then have a meeting with the entire team to discuss the plan and receive feedback on both the design and user experience, as well as the technical feasibility of the design. This process would be repeated until we had a clear path forward.
We presented our work to clients in biweekly demo calls, walking them through the entire development process and explaining the purpose and functionality of the feature. Every click and action was clearly outlined and explained to the client to ensure that we met their needs and expectations. In this industry, accuracy is critical as small mistakes can have serious consequences, so we took every precaution to ensure that our work was correct.
If necessary, high-fidelity mockups were created. Our software has a pre-established framework with predefined styles, so this was not always required. Current work in progress was always printed and posted in communal areas, to ensure that everyone had visibility into the entire feature set
The next step was to add cards to our Kanban board, with each story written by a group representing each team. The wireframes and mockups acted as a guide. We had a unique setup where we used large physical corkboards for our swim lanes, which allowed us to easily see where in the process each story was.
I implemented a stamping process, in which design, development, and QA team members each had a rubber stamp. Once a card was almost complete, I would review it with the development team for consistency, and if it passed, it would be awarded a purple design stamp. The same process would be followed for development and QA checks. This process helped increase transparency and accountability for each story, and greatly reduced delays in our cycles.
The final step was called the design review. Once a feature was complete, the heads of each team would meet and walk through each story with the working software to confirm that both design and functionality were complete. If any issues were found, the feature would be set aside and the process would start over.
During my time on the MFK project, I also played a major role in field research. I would travel and spend time with teams in the field, observing how they were using the software, providing training on new features and gathering feedback. Additionally, I would assist in deploying CBRN sensors, setting up complex networks and providing support for the various equipment the teams were using.
These trips included both inactive and active missions, such as the Boston Marathon, Presidential Inaugurations, and other large National Security Special Events. This hands-on experience with the operators was crucial to the software’s success
While MFK was the primary system we developed, we also collaborated closely with the Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK). Sharing base functions and specific tool sets was a common practice during the design of new features. We also created and partnered with different organizations on several well-known plugins, in which I played a role.
Although I am no longer directly working on MFK, I continue to work with ATAK by designing plugins for various tools such as UGV navigation and sensor fusion. I also serve as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the project and consult regularly with the current UX team on concepts and design audits.