JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Eleven finalists from across the Air Force enterprise are ready to make their innovative ideas reality.
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Office’s “Call for Innovation” campaign ended Jan. 31 and received 122 submissions and more than 2,000 online votes. The office selected eight ideas to advance to AFIMSC’s “Spark Tank” event March 1, where competitors with the top three ideas will receive $200,000 to get their ideas to prototype via AFWERX and tech accelerators.
“We received a great response,” said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer. “It was important to advertise the standup of the innovation office with a major campaign and an exciting event that allows us to highlight innovative Airmen from around the world.”
Similar to the reality television show “Shark Tank,” where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of prominent business people, these Airmen -- dubbed “Intrapreneurs” by Vandeveer -- will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges consisting of Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy, AFIMSC commander; Brig. Gen. Brian Bruckbauer, director of the AFIMSC Expeditionary Support Directorate; Brig. Gen. Alice Trevino, Air Force Installation Contract Agency commander; Robert Moriarty, director of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Installations Directorate; and Heidi Scheppers, deputy director of security forces at Headquarters Air Force.
The top eight ideas, along with their presenters, are:
- Installation Access Control of the Future / Artificial Intelligence (AI) Facial Recognition, submitted by Lt. Col. Carlos Hernandez, Air Force Security Forces Center, JBSA-Lackland and Lt. Col Jeff Fisher, 31st Contracting Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy. Lt. Col. Jesse Goens, 31st MSG commander at Aviano, will present on behalf of Fisher;
- Virtual Visitor Control Center/ Visitor Kiosk, submitted 2nd Lt. DJ Smith, 502nd Communications Squadron, JBSA-Lackland, Steven Dews, 502nd SFS, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Tech Sgt. Brian Lawley, 802nd SFS. JBSA-Lackland, and Senior Master Sgt. Alvin Arguello, AFSFC, JBSA-Lackland.
- “What’s Up” App, submitted by Col. Houston Cantwell, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., who will be accompanied by a USAFA cadet;
- Supply Inventory Management System App, submitted by Master Sgt. Nicole Haun, 87th MSG, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, who will be accompanied by two contractors;
- An app to assist in contracting officer representative duties, submitted by Roger Westermeyer, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency enterprise sourcing support director. Lt. Col. Karen Landale, 773rd ESS, will present on behalf of Westermeyer;
- Leverage existing Geospatial Information System AI learning for facility roof inspections, submitted by 2nd Lt. Alexander Bow, 627th Civil Engineer Squadron, JB-Lewis McChord, Washington, and Capt. Gregory Hege, Air Force Central Command, Al Udeid, Iraq. Hege is deployed, and Bow is partnering with 1st Lt. Tim Sobieski, 627th ABG, JBLM.
- Self-adjusting wide area detection using unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, submitted by John Shackell, AFSFC, JBSA-Lackland;
- Emergency airfield lighting system auxiliary motor upgrade, submitted by Senior Airman Jordan Pitts, 319th CES, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.
The finalists will arrive in San Antonio the week of Feb. 25, where they will rehearse their pitches, tour the AFWERX Austin Hub and meet their assigned tech companies, participate in a Feb. 28 mentorship dinner and deliver their pitch on camera March 1.
“Our senior leaders have committed to participating in weeklong events, where it’s all about the Airmen and their ideas,” Vandeveer said. “We want to transition those ideas into the innovation ecosystem and AFWERX challenges so we can get those ideas into prototype and then the implementation phase across the I&MS enterprise.
“We also received many other submissions that we are sharing so they can continue their momentum. Now we’re getting down to business to help these Airmen be successful.”
Westermeyer, director of enterprise sourcing support for the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, lauds that approach.
“It helps solve the innovator’s dilemma, where organizations are so focused on the current mission and issue of the day that they often don’t take a step back to see if there is a better way to do something,” Westermeyer said.