Spark Tank Showcase highlights innovative ideas
By Giancarlo Casem, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 29, 2020
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 412th Test Wing’s SparkED Innovation Team hosted Spark Tank Live at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Jan. 29.
Each presenter was given three minutes to present their ideas to a panel of judges. They were then given a two minutes to answer any questions from those judges. Presenting those ideas were an integral part of the innovation process said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Neilson, one of the six panel judges.
“I feel like in an environment of innovation, you can have good ideas and it may make sense on paper, but you also have to have a certain amount of belief in what you’re doing; there has to be an underlying cause that impacts something that’s greater than yourself, and I think that’s what really sells it to me,” said Neilson, from the 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Neilson further explained the value he saw in providing a showcase event for the idea owners and to allow them pitch their ideas to people in differing backgrounds and career levels.
“I would say it’s important to give the people who are trying to be innovative, the opportunity to get feedback from people in various levels of the chain of command so they can understand how their ideas are being perceived; you can convince yourself of a perspective, but when you ask a panel to give you feedback, it gives you a greater opportunity to be effective,” he said.
A total of eight ideas were selected for approval by a panel of judges, including one audience-participation vote. The following ideas will now be fielded to the proper subject matter experts to consider implementation and a way forward:
• 6-Day-a-Week Operations
• Fast-Track Airworthiness Approval for Limited Scope Projects
• Oasis Tablet
• Digital Work Log
• PC-Based VTC Systems
• Software Development Lab
• Alternate Work Schedule; 4/10 Work Schedule; Telecomming for Employees
• Updated Pharmacy System
After the voting process was concluded, Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, the 412th Test Wing Commander, gave a few words of encouragement to those whose ideas may not have been selected to go forward.
He reminded the audience that the ideas that were not selected did not mean they were bad ideas, but may just need to be reworked, possibly to do more research to better present their case, or simply maybe the judges thought another idea warranted quicker implementation.
Teichert further encouraged leaders at all levels to be open-minded when it comes to other people’s ideas.
“I’m not the one that has all of these really good ideas, but there’s one really good idea that I have; and that’s listening to your really good ideas,” Teichert said. “You don’t have to be the idea guy or gal, you just have to be smart enough to listen and to consider, and then pursue those that make sense.”
One of the ideas that were selected to move forward was the “Oasis Tablet Project,” a project aimed at implementing a modern tablet device into an F-35 Lightning II cockpit, said idea presenter Lt. Col. Raven LeClair, 370th Flight Test Squadron, and a member of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
“Our idea is a flight test tablet in the cockpit of the F-35, we’re calling it the “Fighter Optimization Experiment (FOX),” LeClair said. “The idea there is we can rapidly bring emerging technology and applications in to the cockpit with a new pilot-vehicle interface to get those technologies onto our aircraft faster.”
LeClair also believes that the showcase was very significant in the fact that he was able to connect with other members of Team Edwards, from many different backgrounds, about the JSF team’s project.
“The human connection is very important; it’s about the people that we’re working with and getting the job done, I already got some input from people in the audience that were excited to hear about what we’re doing and they want to figure out how to work on our project,” he said. “So now we’re hitting the ground running and figuring out how we’re going to make that happen.”