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Spark Tank competition kicks off Innovation Month

Master Sgt. Aron Luna, 375th Security Forces Squadron logistics superintendent, surveys a map of the base on Feb. 25, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Once the office space is converted to the Emergency Communications Center, Fire Fighters and Security Forces members, will work side by side in the Emergency Communications Center. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

Master Sgt. Aron Luna, 375th Security Forces Squadron logistics superintendent, surveys a map of the base on Feb. 25, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Once the office space is converted to the Emergency Communications Center, Fire Fighters and Security Forces members, will work side by side in the Emergency Communications Center. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

Senior Airman Christopher Buckner, Air Mobility Command application developer, works on a project Feb. 25, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.  When the new office space is completed two Airmen will be able to pair program which allows them to work alongside each other as one enters information and the other performs a quality check. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

Senior Airman Christopher Buckner, Air Mobility Command application developer, works on a project Feb. 25, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. When the new office space is completed two Airmen will be able to pair program which allows them to work alongside each other as one enters information and the other performs a quality check. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Kristin Savage)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- A new round of the annual Spark Tank competition is set for March 4, kicking off Scott’s Month of Innovation initiatives.

Spark Tank is a funding competition that gives Airmen an opportunity to pitch ideas to base leadership. The 375th Air Mobility Wing held its last Spark Tank in May.

 “Our last Spark Tank gave us some awesome innovations straight from the Airmen who are doing the mission,” said Col. Leslie Maher, 375th AMW commander. “It’s the Airmen out there, where rubber meets the road, who have the best perspective on what we can do to work smarter, not harder, and Spark Tank lets us hear from them directly.”

Six winners were selected from the May competition, and the following is an update on those initiatives.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT OPERATION UPGRADES AND GPS PUCKS

Senior Master Sgt. Amanda Pelletier and Master Sgt. Brett Baker, both flight attendants from the 54th Airlift Squadron, received funds to renovate the unit’s kitchen to increase productivity. Improvements included a new dishwasher, shelves, a prep station and a fridge-freezer alert system.

Another innovation from the 54th AS, presented by Maj. Matthew Zayatz was the introduction of “GPS pucks,” used in conjunction with iPads to relay real-time information regarding an aircraft’s location while in flight. It helps increase pilot’s situational awareness in regards to boundaries of foreign countries.

“This data helps us make decisions about how best to reroute our aircraft for weather or other reasons,” said Zayatz, a 73rd AS pilot who also uses the pucks.

EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS CENTER  

Master Sgt. Aron Luna, 375th Security Forces Squadron logistics superintendent, sought an innovative way for first responders to work together to reduce their response time. The Emergency Communications Center at the 375th Security Forces Squadron consolidates the course of the dispatchers.

“9-1-1 calls come over to different dispatch centers depending on what kind of call it is,” said Luna. “Depending on what it is, the Fire Department might have to call our dispatch centers or we might have to call the Fire Department. So it’ll alleviate the redundancy, and it will just shorten our response time.”

Since the Spark Tank, $80,000 worth of consoles have been brought in, and the center has been outfitted to accept new equipment from both the security forces and fire department.

COLLECTIVE CUSTOMER SIGN-IN PLATFORM

Capt. Steven Weippert, A 375th Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight commander, presented a collective sign-in system for Military Personnel Flight, Finance and Travel Management Office customers.

“Collectively between the MPF, Finance and TMO, we all saw the need for a new customer sign-in platform,” said Weippert. “We figured why not get one collective sign-in system that allows customers to use the same system and give back time to the members instead of sitting here in a waiting room.”  The sign-in software system is being tested and evaluated and will be unveiled for use later this spring.

EXTREME SOFTWARE PROGRAMMING INITIATIVE 

Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cook, 375th Communications Support Squadron flight chief of software services, created an innovative environment to facilitate the development of new software.

“We used to work in cubicle-type environments, but that wasn’t conducive to the style of programming we use, which is called pair programming,” said Cook. “We opened up our cubicles to be like conference rooms where you have an entire team working in there.”

With this new set-up, two people will work on two monitors, one on a keyboard and the other constantly checking what the other one is working on. There are up to 12 individuals in the collaborative team cells working on a project together.

“We’re currently working on two projects using this methodology, as well as working on an app for the  Honor Guard, which was is another Spark Tank idea that tied right into what we were doing,” said Cook. “The commander felt that instead of applying the money for them to go outsource the application for someone else to do it, [we could] build it right in house.”

The Base Honor Guard had pitched the idea for an app called “Mercury” to simplify scheduling of Scott AFB Honor Guard members after coordinating with 375th FSS leadership and various funeral directors over the course of two months. Instead of relying heavily on fax machines for scheduling and having to follow numerous labor-intensive steps, funeral directors requested a better way to work with the Honor Guard teams. The app will allow the funeral directors in a five-state area to connect and schedule the teams directly.  The team is finalizing and testing the app before going live with it later this spring.   

FACILITY INFORMATION SOLUTIONS 

The final winner from the Spark Tank competition came from the 375th Civil Engineering Squadron. The team was awarded funds to purchase Microsoft Tablets for use in the field instead of paper.

“This introduces efficiencies to the assessment process by getting rid of the current pen-and-paper process for completing a facility assessment,” said 2nd Lt. Melissa Sallberg, 375th CES project programmer. “More efficiency in this process allows facilities to be assessed in a shorter amount of time, which greatly improves our asset management processes when it comes to developing future projects to improve our base.”