ACC selects top two for Air Force Spark Tank Challenge

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Master Sgt. Justin Bauer, 355th Maintenance Group wheel and tire section chief, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., presents his Spark Tank Challenge submission virtually to ACC Commander Gen. Mark Kelly. Bauer's submission was one of the command’s two submissions selected to compete in the Air Force Spark Tank. Spark Tank is an annual event where Airmen pitch innovative ideas to Air Force leaders and a panel of industry experts. The Air Force Spark Tank Finals will be held in conjunction with the Air Force Association’s Aerospace Warfare Symposium, February 2021. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Emili Koonce)
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Air Combat Command has announced their two 2021 Spark Tank semi-finalists and four wildcards moving on to compete at the Air Force level.

ACC commander Gen. Mark Kelly selected two semi-finalists from the command’s top six submissions and the remaining four will move ahead to the challenge as wild card entries into the Air Force competition.

“We had 61 entries this year and these ideas represent the best of our Air Force and the best of ACC,” said Kelly. “It’s really uplifting to see Airmen who care so much about their profession and making the daily mission stronger as well making our service’s capabilities and lethality better every day.”

Spark Tank is an annual event where Airmen pitch innovative ideas to top Air Force leadership and a panel of industry experts. Hosted each year at the Air Force Association’s Warfare Symposium, thousands of attendees watch as Air Force leaders encourage Airmen to disrupt the status quo.

Finalists are selected based on specific capabilities as well as concerns of safety, policy, Air Force-wide implementation, technical feasibility and scalability. Following the event, they receive project management support and other resources to implement their ideas.

ACC’s 2021 Spark Tank semi-finalists are:

Master Sgt. Justin Bauer, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., 355th Maintenance Group

As a wheel and tire section chief, Bauer, pitched his tool idea to improve C-130 wheel repair capabilities. His tool would allow Airmen to repair wheels at home station instead of sending the wheel to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex for depot maintenance.

“The tool doesn’t require any specialized training or specialized equipment on the Airmen’s part,” said Bauer. “We’ve tested the tool here and have seen instant results. We were immediately able to return serviceable C-130 wheels back to the fight.”

Staff Sgt. Joshua Monnette, Pope Army Airfield, N.C., 818th Operations Support Squadron and students with Duke University

As a combat weatherman, Monnette and Duke University partners dedicated an entire semester to working through the challenge and creating an application that Tactical Air Control Party Airmen can use to determine if their communications are being jammed and how.

“We think we can scale this concept to enable every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Space Force Member operating at the tactical edge of current and future battlefields to be a sensor,” said Monnette. “We see this translating into major combat operations and broadening our sensor capability across the Department of Defense.”

An idea this big took a whole team to develop and submit. Since last December Maj. Jesse Swanson, 818th Operation Support Squadron chief of standards and evaluations, Staff. Sgt John Hayles, 818th OSS non-commissioned officer in charge radio transmissions, and Mr. Ryan Fausey, 818th OSS tactical air control party modernization office representative, have been working with Monnette and his student partners to complete the necessary research and plans to present their idea to senior leadership.

“I’m honored and humbled to be the person to get the ball into the goal but I cannot take full credit for this achievement by any means,” said Monette. “It is amazing to present this idea to leadership and have them see the value in your idea. It makes all the hard work we’ve all put in worth it and is extremely rewarding.”

The Air Force Spark Tank Finals will be held in conjunction with the Air Force Association’s Aerospace Warfare Symposium, February 2021.

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