SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
The 52nd Maintenance Group’s “smart-weapons-loading checklist” design continued to advance in the third annual Spark Tank and recently landed in the final round where it will be pitched to top Air Force leadership and industry experts at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 28, 2020.
This is the second time Spangdahlem Air Base has made the final round of Spark Tank. Last year, Master Sgt. Jonathan Maas, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management section chief, won the competition with his idea of using renewable energy to power a chemical agent detector with minimal user maintenance.
Spark Tank is led by AFWERX, the U.S. Air Force's team of innovators who encourage and facilitate connections to create transformative opportunities and foster a culture of innovation.
“I am very excited and thankful to be one of six finalists for Spark Tank 2020,” said Master Sgt. Valenzuela, 52nd MXG weapons standardization superintendent and project lead. “This is an opportunity to showcase this initiative and give weapons load crews worldwide the technological edge to win any fight at any time.”
The competition is designed to encourage intrapreneurship, retain Air Force innovators, and speed adoption of emerging technologies, especially those developed by Airmen that bring impactful change to the Air Force.
The MXG engineered a “smart” checklist that streamlines the data and only displays the required steps for the action being performed. Currently, team chiefs may have to sort through more than 800 steps to find the one that applies to the task being performed. The new checklist software filters multiple input conditions and generates a single streamlined list of only the applicable steps required for that weapons load.
“I think all six of the initiatives that made the Spark Tank finals are fantastic and should receive funding to be further developed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gabriel Flagg, 52nd MXG wing weapons manager. “However, I believe that Spangdahlem’s initiative will win the competition because of the tremendous impact that it will have on our combat capability, and because it really gets after the objectives of the Spark Tank competition: drive innovation, cost-effectively modernize, and restore readiness.”
Valenzuela said this initiative is extremely important because it will reduce the amount of time the team chief is scrolling through a checklist, shortening the overall load time of an aircraft by 36 percent, and can be applied to all fourth-generation aircraft.
On the day of competition, Valenzuela will introduce the MXG concept to a panel of judges including Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, and SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk.
“This team has had their foot on the gas pedal from the moment they recognized the merit of their idea,” said Flagg. “100 percent of the funding from Spark Tank will go to further developing the software and scaling it across all weapons’ platforms. More than anything, this initiative has confirmed that positive change can be enacted at any level, and that our senior leaders have established an environment that facilitates innovation.”
Head to AF.mil to the watch the Spark Tank competition live on February 28th at 9:15 a.m. EST