Air Force announces 2019 Spark Tank finalists

January 29, 2019
Staff Sgt. Jannelle McRae, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
lightbulb with text Spark Tank Finalists

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) The Air Force recently announced the 2019 Spark Tank finalists who will showcase their innovative ideas to Air Force senior leaders Feb. 28, in Orlando, Florida, at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium.

Spark Tank provides a high-profile, public forum to celebrate the innovations of Airmen, identifies avenues to increase lethality and cost-effective modernization, pushes boundaries to pursue future technologies, and recognizes problems and creative solutions. This year, out of 320 submissions, six finalists were selected and an additional project will be highlighted at AFA due to the non-expense implementation.

“Spark Tank is a chance to celebrate our Air Force risk-takers, idea makers and entrepreneurs who refuse to accept the status quo, and have determined their own fate by developing solutions that make it easier for us to bring our very best to the fight,” said Lauren Knausenberger, Spark Tank director.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson chaired the 2019 Spark Tank board to determine the competition’s finalists.

“We asked Airmen to innovate, and they delivered,” said Wilson. “This year’s Spark Tank candidates knocked it out of the park, and paring their submissions down to a handful of ideas was no easy feat—the ingenuity of our Airmen never ceases to amaze me.”

During the selection board process, senior leaders engaged in a lively discussion, addressing the need for specific capabilities as well as concerns of safety, policy, Air Force-wide implementation, technical feasibility and scalability.

Airmen submitted ideas via the Air Force Ideation Platform and were able to vote and comment on submissions. Key themes included automation, workforce development, readiness, maintenance innovation and connectivity.

The finalists are:

  • Staff Sgt. Travis W. Alton, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Air Mobility Command
    • M-1 Cargo Parachute: Staff Sgt. Alton developed a fail-safe device that physically prevents the timing mechanism from releasing in the event of a timer malfunction while not interfering, impeding or hindering current rigging methods and/or procedures. It’s designed to eliminate malfunctions created by the cargo parachutes releasing prematurely in the event of a timer malfunction.


  • Master Sgt. Bridget A. Neighbor, Staff Sgt. Frederick A. Van Riper, Master Sgt. Jonathan P. Zielinski, Air Force Special Operations Command
    • MQ-9 Digital Link: The proposed emulator mounts the minimal essential parts of an MQ-9 into a tactical case. A small piece of test equipment will replace having to tow an aircraft for link checks, reducing cargo weight and foot print for bare base set-up requirements and expediting expeditionary launch and recovery element operations.


  • Master Sgt. Jonathan Maas, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdadahlem Air Base, Germany, U.S. Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa
    • Chem Renewable Energy: This product provides uninterrupted chemical agent detection by using a renewable energy power supply so the detector continually runs with minimal user maintenance.


  • Ms. Mia Tobitt and Master Sgt. William Bell 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, U.S. Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa
    • Integrated Comm Respirator: A respirator with an integrated camera, speaker/microphone to enhance communication, allowing outside input, second opinions & detailed communication at critical times while increasing safety.


  • Preparatory School Cadet Usama Bamieh, United States Air Force Academy
    • Lexi: Lexi is an innovative computer software that helps weather forecasters develop products for their customers. This software has the ability to compile data points from multiple locations, make logical decisions based on these data points and then assist a forecaster by preparing the mission execution forecast.


  • Tech. Sgt. Matthew Steht and Tech. Sgt. Cory Snyder, 144th Maintenance Group, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, Air National Guard
    • Adaptive Basing: Rapid deployment of four aircraft can take 72 hours and 43 people to get off the ground, allowing the enemy more time to prepare for an attack. This concept streamlines the time to five hours and 12 people. Proposal is for a modified semi-truck trailer designed with C-17 Globemaster III loadmasters for the most effective design in airlifting.


  • Tech. Sgt. Oralia Howard, 48th Maintenance Group, RAF Lakenheath, England, Air Combat Command
    • Launcher Overspray Protectors: The overspray protectors replace tape to cover critical components and markings while conducting scheduled inspections and maintenance on missile launchers for F-15 Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons.

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants presented an explicit breakdown of the problem at hand to be returned to the lifecycle management center and used in future workshops to further define the problem or to begin developing a solution.

“A common issue within the Air Force is that everyone is working in silos and no one is collaborating,” Scott said. “AFWERX exists to build that essential ecosystem through efforts like the coordination we accomplished for this workshop.”

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