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When Navy veteran Brad Halsey worked for the Stanford Research Institute, now SRI International, in the early 2000s, he noticed that, while researchers were doing good work for the military, none of that research and technology was going to the battlefield. Meanwhile, U.S. forces were being beaten in combat by those fighting with “almost hobbyist-level” equipment.

It was a startling revelation, and one that would go on to spur Halsey to help not only service members around the globe but also a host of civilians on the home front.

After another job, this one consulting for the Army, which called for Halsey to go to Iraq and try to find solutions to problems, he discovered a love for training others. Couple that with his concern for troops in combat, and you have the Alexandria-based company Building Momentum, which now-CEO Halsey founded in 2014 with Albert Vega. Its mission is to train others to solve real-world problems at the point of need.

The 47-year-old Halsey started the firm with Vega, who is now CTO, in the basement of his home. Initially, the company concentrated on sharing practical skills and access to emerging technologies with service members. Today, from its new headquarters called “The Garden” – which boasts one of the biggest makerspaces on the East Coast – it also offers training programs for businesses and even schoolchildren.

Building Momentum’s military training is called “Innovation Boot Camp” and is designed to teach troops problem-solving methods they can use in the field. Technology incorporated includes computer-aided design, 3D-printing, laser-cutting, coding, robotics, solar power, 3D-scanning, GPS and drones. To date, the company’s employees have trained nearly 5,000 active-duty service members. Many of those have “developed real-time solutions to problems on base and in the field that they couldn’t have prior to our training,” Building Momentum’s website says.

The training also addresses a problem Halsey and Vega found in the military and in other settings. Often institutions are held back by their own bureaucracies. For example, Halsey noted a time when an entire military drone program was shut down simply because a Marine flew a drone into a tree. If a Marine got accidentally hit on a shooting range, commanding officers wouldn’t shut the whole range down, Halsey said, so why did they do so in response to a technology issue?

“These things drive me nuts,” he said.

Learning new technology also can be hampered by strict rules, Halsey said, mentioning a supposed makerspace he discovered where no one was allowed to touch any of the equipment.

The answer in that situation? “Let people learn how to use it,” he said.

Building Momentum’s corporate training is called “Innovation Elevated” and encourages open communication among workers as well as creativity. Participants toil with a variety of technology and supplies that challenge them to build slot cars, fashion catapults and even construct a version of the arcade game in which you try to pick up prizes with a mechanical claw.

Building Momentum, which has about 25 employees, has trained about 1,000 senior business leaders in various industries. Customers have included theater groups, those at banks or in finance, employees at the Afghan embassy and civilian government workers.

“The client set’s really broad,” Halsey said.

And really happy with their experience with the company.

“Building Momentum created an inviting and engaging environment,” said Karen Pallansch, General Manager and CEO for Alexandria Renew Enterprises. That “helped everyone on my team work together regardless of title or position, to solve a problem, and overcome those pesky but fun unexpected twists!”

The training, which can be done at a customer’s location or at Building Momentum, includes questions such as: “Are you looking at the problem the right way?” and “Are you doing the right things to solve it?”

It also helps participants feel empowered by learning new things. For instance, if an accountant learns welding in a Building Momentum course, something he probably would have never considered exploring before, he will feel like he can definitely solve problems within his chosen field, Halsey said.

Building Momentum’s programs also eschew the notion of toxic masculinity.

“That doesn’t work,” Halsey said. “That will never work.” Instead, he said, the teaching is more Brené Brown and less General Patton.

Building Momentum’s children’s training is called “Innovation Academy,” and it teaches kids to “safely and correctly use ‘grown-up’ tools” and to use their imagination. Class subjects include welding, woodshop, 3D-printing, laser-cutting, coding and circuit-making.

Possible captions:

One of the most senior people at the Pentagon visited the company when it was in its makeshift home, Halsey said. Now in its headquarters called “The Garden,” Building Momentum has one of the biggest makerspaces on the East Coast.

The 47-year-old Halsey started the firm with Vega, who is now CTO, in the basement of his home. Initially, the company concentrated on sharing practical skills and access to emerging technologies with service members. Today, from its new headquarters called “The Garden” – which boasts one of the biggest makerspaces on the East Coast – it also offers training programs for businesses and even schoolchildren.

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