Winner of NIWC Atlantic’s AI-Driven Competition Announced at SC Decoded Conference

September 21, 2023

Palmetto Tech Bridge (PTB) Director Erik Gardner (left) and Dr. Luke Overbey (right), senior scientific technical manager for autonomy at Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic, present a $70,000 cash prize to on Sept. 12 at the 2023 SC Decoded Conference in Myrtle Beach for winning the PTB’s “Autonomy 3 Ways Prize Challenge.”

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic presented a $70,000 check to for winning the Palmetto Tech Bridge (PTB) “Autonomy 3 Ways Prize Challenge” on Sept. 12 during the 2023 SC Decoded Conference.

Before a panel of government experts at a Myrtle Beach conference center, five finalists presented their technical solutions under one or more of three separate artificial intelligence (AI)-related tracks.

For a single PTB challenge, it was the largest cash prize ever awarded.

“With intelligent autonomous systems, unique real-world situations can have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of AI capabilities, which are traditionally limited by their training,” said Dr. Luke Overbey, NIWC Atlantic’s senior scientific technical manager for autonomy and one of the judges during the prize challenge. “During this rigorous competition, the winning team identified these limitations and provided exceptional insights that can lead to more robust AI-enabled autonomy.” 

Fraunhofer USA, Booz Allen Hamilton and PeopleTec also competed in the prize challenge, which was restricted to organizations with a footprint in South Carolina.

AI methods for visually detecting and classifying objects are critical to U.S. military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The Autonomy 3 Ways Prize Challenge showed how AI solutions being advanced by the commercial sector can potentially support military ISR and other information warfare missions as well.

Ahead of the final phase of the challenge, PTB Director Erik Gardner arranged for it to take place during the second annual SC Decoded Conference in order to advance stronger collaboration with South Carolina industry and state government.

SC Decoded is a statewide emerging technology and cybersecurity conference hosted by the SC Council on Competitiveness (SC Competes) in coordination with the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

As a strong partner of NIWC Atlantic, SC Competes leadership said that hosting the prize challenge was a good opportunity to develop market awareness in the region.

“A big part of our mission at SC Competes is to ensure our industry clusters are aware of the opportunities available across the Palmetto State, whether a funding opportunity or a chance to make connections,” said Susie Shannon, SC Competes president and CEO. “PTB prize challenges sponsored by a Navy technology command are an excellent chance for our tech and cyber companies to work with the government, possibly for the first time.”

Currently in its sixth iteration, PTB prize challenges crowdsource technical solutions from the public by first defining a naval problem and then inviting commercial and academic organizations to compete for the best solution. Competitions are funded by NIWC Atlantic, organized by the PTB and administered through

A similar challenge at NIWC Atlantic called the “Multilateral Autonomy Prize Challenge” is currently accepting entries through Oct. 31. More details for this competition are available at

Challenges can also help commercial and other non-federal entities collaborate with government labs to spark innovative ideas and solutions on other fronts, like Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, or CRADAs.

Such collaborations, NIWC Atlantic leaders say, can be a catalyst for effecting strategic change by building bridges to industry and nontraditional commercial partnerships.

“Congratulations to the winning team for tackling the tough operational challenge of detecting, identifying and classifying novel objects,” said Capt. Nicole Nigro, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer. “For naval forces, solutions developed as a result of these efforts can lead to better autonomy, which provides our warfighters a powerful information warfare advantage on the battlefield.”

About Palmetto Tech Bridge
NIWC Atlantic’s PTB aims to support “acceleration ecosystems” across the Southeast by removing barriers to entry, fostering a culture of trust and innovation, and providing awareness and direct access to warfighter challenges. The PTB’s three primary mission capability areas are cybersecurity, assured communications and data science.

About NIWC Atlantic
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

About SC Council on Competitiveness
SC Competes is a nonpartisan, business-led, non-profit organization committed to advancing the long-term economic competitiveness of our state, industries and citizens. Our work is accomplished through actionable research on opportunities and threats to South Carolina’s competitiveness; support of industry clusters that provide South Carolina a competitive advantage; and education and workforce development initiatives that ensure all South Carolina citizens are equipped to compete in a global economy. We execute our work through partnerships, recognizing that our state’s economic success is secured through sustained collaboration among the private, public, academic and non-profit sectors.

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