Spark Tank competition yields innovative ideas

Team Scott Honorary Commander Dennis Lower, who is also president and CEO of Cortex Innovation Community President helped judge the Spark Tank competition March 4, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. As a guest judge, he also provided feedback for presenters on their ideas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

By Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — Seven presenters did their best to wow judges with their ideas in hopes of receiving funding to put their plans into action during Scott’s 2019 Spark Tank competition.

Spark Tank is a competition that provides Airmen with a fun, competition-style platform to share what they think will help improve readiness for the Air Force.

Presenters each had eight minutes to speak, followed by a question and answer segment. This year, Col. Leslie Maher, 375th Air Mobility Wing Commander invited several Airmen to help judge the competition, along with an Honorary Commander, Dennis Lower, who is president and CEO of Cortex Innovation Community.

Judges are reviewing all the presentations, with some requiring more research before beginning any prototypes. Those selected fully for funding will be announced later in March.

Helping to judge the ideas included Senior Airman Kendall Dane, 375th Communications Support Squadron, who listens in at the Spark Tank competition March 4, 2019, at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Col. Leslie Maher, 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, selected several Airmen, along with Honorary Commander Dennis Lower, the president and CEO of Cortex Innovation Community, to help judge the competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

DRIVING SIMULATOR   

Master Sgt. Todd Martin, 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of ground transportation, started off this year’s Spark Tank with an idea for a vehicle simulator for training purposes. New Airmen need 60 to 70 hours of training on a vehicle, and right now Martin only has two vehicles to share between 10 Airmen in upgrade training.

“The intention is that this simulator provide the basic fundamentals where we’ll always have progression on training, but the bigger picture is that it’s not only for LRS Airmen,” said Martin. “It would benefit emergency response vehicles for security forces, civil engineering, firefighters, and medical personnel, too.”

Maj. Keith Nordquist, 458th Airlift Squadron C-21 Formal Training Unit chief, presents his idea for a flight training device to a group of judges at the Spark Tank competition March 4, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Nordquist proposed a flight simulator that will help keep C-21 aircrews combat ready and capable on its new avionics upgrades while still learning legacy systems during the transition period. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

C-21 AUP FLIGHT TRAINING DEVICE  

Maj. Keith Nordquist, 458th Airlift Squadron C-21 Formal Training Unit chief, trains crew members to be combat ready and capable. Nordquist proposed an idea for a flight simulator to help train crew members on the new C-21 cockpit.

“Starting last summer, the C-21 fleet started a huge effort to update and modernize all the avionics in our airplanes,” said Nordquist.  The flight simulator, he said, would allow aircrews to train on the new upgrades, since not all the C-21s have the new systems.  This would assist them because pilots are still learning legacy systems while training on the AUP cockpits as the C-21s become updated throughout the year.     

AE EMERGENCY EVAL APP

Tech. Sgt. Holly Earl, Air Mobility Command Det. 4 Flight Instructor, proposed an app that would help train students in the aeromedical community on their emergency procedures for specific tasks.

“After aircrews are qualified, they get to their duty stations, and go through upgrade training to become an Aeromedical Evacuation Technician,” said Jefferson. “Say a student is struggling on equipment in particular, they can select equipment and just go through that and really get in depth without having the instructor there, without having to have that piece of equipment there.”   Even though the app will be designed for students, Earl believes it can still benefit the entire AE community.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT MENU DATABASE  

Tech. Sgt. Rashel Jefferson, 54th Airlift Squadron flight attendant, brought an idea for a database to help simplify organizing meals for distinguished visitors to Scott. Planning for a DV’s arrival, flight attendants need to find out how many passengers, what groceries will be needed, what meals the DV would like as well as any dietary restrictions.

“As a flight attendant, food is very important when it comes to our DV missions,” said Jefferson. “Flight attendants spend anywhere from three to 12 hours just coordinating the food aspect of our mission, so this database would be very helpful for our operations.”

SECURITY ACTION MANAGEMENT TRACKER  

First Lt. Panupong Phongpitakvises, a 375th Information Protection officer, presented a solution to simplify the security reviews when hiring civilians. The hiring process for civilians can be lengthy but with the “Security Management Tracker,” applicants can see where they are in the process and know what steps to take next.

 OCP BADGE HOLDER 

Tech Sgt. Steven Krugle, 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of air transportation function, suggested a new way to wear security badges with the new Air Force uniforms. The OCP Badge Holder allows Airmen to take their badge on and off quickly.

The badge holder has Velcro on the back to help stick to the Velcro on the uniform. Krugle came up with the idea while he was deployed to Bagram and couldn’t find a good place for his badge holder.

Airman 1st Class Daniel Merritt, 375th Civil Engineering Squadron fire protection, prepares to present his innovative idea at the 2019 Spark Tank competition March 4, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Merritt’s presentation about a document template was one of seven ideas brought to the competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

ADMINISTRATIVE UTILIZATION TOOL 

Senior Airman Chace Smith, 375th Civil Engineering Squadron driver operator and Airman 1st Class Daniel Merritt, 375th CES firefighter, presented an idea to help Air Force leadership administer paperwork faster. They designed a template that can be used to write memorandum for record, letter of counseling and letter of reprimand style documents.

“Margins, headers, footers, datelines, grammar and spelling errors; these are the most common errors we have encountered over and over again,” said Smith.

Senior Airman Chace Smit and Airman 1st Class Daniel Merritt, 375th Civil Engineering Squadron, had eight minutes to present their idea for a document template during the 2019 Spark Tank competition March 4, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

The template is designed so Airmen can plug in necessary information in boxes and it automatically creates the document.