Spangdahlem Airmen compete for Spark Tank

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joshua R. M. Dewberry
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The third annual Spark Tank competition, where Airmen can present their innovative solutions to problems that face the U.S. Air Force, is in full swing.

The day of competition, to be held at the Air Force Association conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 27, 2020, is where the best ideas from around the Air Force will be on full display for a panel of judges to see and award the winning idea.

At the final competition in February 2019, six Airmen finalists pitched their ideas to the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Chief Master Sgt. Of the Air Force, Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner IV to compete for funding and resources to make their projects a success.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe took this year’s Spark Tank cup with Master Sgt. Jonathan Maas from the 52nd Fighter Wing presenting a renewable energy solution for chemical detectors that will save over $1,000,000 in battery purchases and more than 10,000 hours of menial work for Airmen.

One of the submissions for next year comes from the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Group, with the leads on the project being Master Sgt. Gabrial Valenzuela, 52nd Maintenance Group weapons standardization superintendent, and Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Angley, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew chief.

“Our idea is to engineer a ‘smart’ checklist that will streamline the weapons loading technical data to only display the required steps for the action being performed,” said Valenzuela. “The concept revolves around software that is capable of filtering multiple input conditions. For example, the team chief would enter the type of aircraft, current configuration, and the action to be performed and the software would generate a single streamlined checklist with only the applicable steps required for that particular load.”

Currently, weapons loading checklists are complex and time consuming. Often times, team chiefs have to use four to five different PDF checklists and sort through over 800 steps to find the steps that apply to the task they are performing.

“Our proof of concept would work on all fourth generation aircraft for the Air Force,” said Angley. “We tested this idea in a controlled environment with multiple munitions loads on our training days, but we can’t scale this to the rest of the Air Force without authorization from headquarters or funding to generate a new ‘smart list.’”

During the proof of concept weapons loads, the use of a simplified checklist cut 28 minutes from the overall loading time of one aircraft, equating to a 36% reduction.

“We’re spending too much time validating the checklists we currently use,” said Valenzuela. “Deployed on a larger scale, this would save time across the board and significantly decrease generation timelines. Currently, there are no commercial products that have this capability. We have an opportunity to modernize weapons loading checklists and ultimately give our Airmen the technological edge.”