Director, Defense Research & Engineering (DDR&E) – Media Relations & Event Planning

Challenges

The DDR&E Wearable Power Prize offered more than $1 million in awards to anyone, from big tech businesses to garage tinkerers, who could make a small power source to specifications for use by warfighters in the field.

The 15-day event involved hundreds of competitors, judges and Defense Department personnel and drew thousands of spectators to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twenty-Nine Palms, CA.

Vox Optima was asked to provide complete event management and public affairs support to create and manage this complex project. Tasks ranged from planning the official reception at the base Officers’ Club to providing meals for hundreds of people throughout the event to finding giant, circus-sized tents suitable for housing the technical competition and DoD exhibits in a desert environment.

Other challenges included providing security at the test area, marketing and media training support and on-site information services and IT support, all on a working military base, while turning a barren field into an inviting and festive event site.

Solutions

Vox Optima provided initial guidance on media relations and how to get the word out about this remarkable event though marketing, media and internal communications. We negotiated a contract with a tent supplier for a one-vendor shelter solution, contracted with a company to install temporary trailers and office equipment, contracted with Pinkerton’s Government Services to secure sensitive areas on site and located, vetted and contracted with a caterer and determined menus for daily meal service ranging from 60 to more than 100 meals per day.

Vox located a flag supplier and bought and erected 120 flagpoles, alternating military service flags at intervals to enhance site appearance, and even set up a laundry service and found mannequin torsos required to test the power packs.

Vox Optima provided media training to all judges and competitors, coordinated local and national media coverage including a story by The Discovery Channel, conducted public events where key personnel were interviewed and attended these events to assist in interviews. The Vox Optima team designed and produced a base-wide communication campaign promoting the public portion of the event.

To further involve the community Vox Optima organized a student outreach event for the Twenty-Nine Palms school district. More than 1000 students visited the display tent where more than 20 Navy organizations and private corporations set up displays and other hands-on events. Vox Optima was in charge of contacting interested vendors and staging the displays as well as all utilities for the display tent.

Zack Nelson, a second-grader at Palm Vista Elementary School in Twentynine Palms, Calif., peers down the assistant driver’s hatch during the Wearable Power Prize competition technology showcase and kid’s day at Del Valle Field.

Zack Nelson, a second-grader at Palm Vista Elementary School in Twentynine Palms, Calif., peers down the assistant driver’s hatch during the Wearable Power Prize competition technology showcase and kid’s day at Del Valle Field.

We managed the client’s budget and expenditures, purchasing necessary items in a cost-effective way. We managed the entire site for all 15 days and responded to emergent and situational program changes smoothly.

Outcomes

Our support to DDR&E gave this federal office a one-stop solution for all needs in support of a critical scientific competition and boosted their public profile and outreach. Coverage was obtained in the following on-line publications: Slashdot.org, MSN.com, CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, United Press International, Reuters, The Conservative Voice, TreeHugger.com, Physorg.com, Wired.com and IEEE Spectrum.  One-on-one interviews with the competition sponsor, Dr. William S. Rees, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Laboratories and Basic Sciences were held with CNN, MSN, and the Wall Street Journal. 

We managed all aspects of this massively complex event with attention to cost and eye for detail.