The Few, the Proud, the Cloud: The Marines Hosts Design Competition on Launch Forth

U.S. Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Air-Ground Task Force-8 (MAGTF-8), load a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) into a CH-53 Super Stallion prior to conducting an air assault course during Integrated Training Exercise 5-17 (ITX) on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 29, 2017. The purpose of ITX is to create a challenging, realistic training environment that produces combat-ready forces capable of operating as an integrated MAGTF. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher A. Mendoza)

This February, a design challenge came online at Launch Forth, a virtual co-creation space.


The brief for the Modular Logistic Vehicle Design Challenge reads, “We are asking you to design a new type of light vehicle with modular elements ... The design should fit within the following dimensions [width 64 inch x length 141 inch x height 72 inch], allowing it to be easily transported by V22 Osprey.”

The winning design will “exemplify the innovative-hacker spirit of the Marines, turning it into something available to the entire Marine Corps,” according to the project home page.

The total reward is $50,000—$10,000 for the design challenge winners, $40,000 for the technical challenge winners.

The press announcement from Launch Forth reads, “The U.S. military has long been exploring the idea of innovation and today the U.S. Marines Corps and San Francisco-based, co-creation platform Launch Forth announced a partnership to co-create products through design challenges that meet a wide range of logistical missions.”

Running on a cloud-hosted design collaboration platform open to the public (for viewing) and members (for participation), the project also challenges the conventional idea that military projects are supposed to be secretive and off the cloud.


U.S. Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Air-Ground Task Force-8 (MAGTF-8), load a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) into a CH-53 Super Stallion  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher A. Mendoza). A design contest on Launch Forth calls for coming up with a new type of light vehicle.




MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - U.S. Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines prepare to begin a patrol in the Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Rhita Daniel/Released). A design contest on Launch Forth calls for coming up with a new type of light vehicle.


The Few, The Proud, now Heading for the Cloud

At the helm of the MLV project is former Marine, John B. Rogers, Jr., chairman and CEO of LM Industries, Inc., the parent company of Launch Forth and Local Motors.

“The modern military is a very diverse domain. An increasingly relevant fraction of which has nothing to do with guns, armor, and rocket engines—the classic sensitive topics. In fact, the trend is that modified civil products often outperform military ones and are thus relied on in many fields,” explained Sam Buschhorn, Launch Forth's co-creation manager and digital engineer. “Even intelligence has significant sectors shifting to more open approaches because of those work so much more economically.”

Many leading design software makers are watching the co-creation spaces for brand introduction and outreach opportunities. Siemens PLM Software, for instance, offers a special edition of its CAD modeler Solid Edge for Local Motors members.

In simplistic views, co-creation spaces like Launch Forth may be seen as a rival to the established data management and product lifecycle management (PLM) firms, which sells collaboration software as part of their offerings. But Buschhorn pointed out, the two sectors also complement each other.

“Launch Forth is far more cross-disciplined than common CAD, PLM, and Requirements Management. We integrate bigger aspects of ideation and sense-making,” he added.

Launch Forth's co-creation space is cloud-hosted, accessible through standard browsers. It currently has 147,000 members. The site also has a special section devoted to Military and Defense projects.


Ianis Vasilatos, a designer from Romania, is the design contest winner for the Modular Logistic Vehicle Design Challenge. Wireframe view courtesy of Ianis Vasilatos.


Winner from Romania

The first place winner for the design contest is Ianis Vasilatos, an artist, designer, and engineer from Romania—a member who's been with Launch Forth since its birth.

“For the first year, I didn’t even have a log-in,” recalled Vasilatos. “I just watched others, without participating in any challenge ... As time passed, I started to participate in a lot of challenges and competitions and have submitted some good ideas that have won awards, and some bad ideas that were not even close to winning.”

Vasilatos's winning entries included, among others, a helmet design for NASCAR, the Domino’s pizza car design, and the Local Motors Cruiser design.

Vasilatos used Autodesk 3ds Max for both modeling and rendering of the design.

“But all the winning aside, the most important thing for me is to be among designers, engineers, and friends doing what I like to do most—design,” said Vasilatos.

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Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong is Digital Engineering’s resident blogger and senior editor. Email him at [email protected] or share your thoughts on this article at

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