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NEWS | April 7, 2021

First joint Spark Tank fosters creative solutions

By Staff Sgt. Cary Smith 316th Wing Public Affairs

The SparkX Cell Innovation and Idea Center on Joint Base Andrews held its first ever joint 316th Wing and 89th Airlift Wing Spark Tank on March 26, 2021.

The event allowed presenters to bring forward innovative ideas to wing leadership in hopes of improving base operations and quality of life.

Five Spark Tank presenters stood in front of a panel of “Sharks,” similar to the popular ABC television show “Shark Tank,” which included Col. Roy Oberhaus, 316th Wing vice commander, Col. Stephen Snelson, 89th AW commander, and representatives from the legal, finance, and contracting offices.

In order of presentations, the proposed innovative ideas included an automated luggage transport delivery system, a floating solar energy plan for the base, purchase of a personnel information system software, introduction of a new diversity and inclusion training platform, and an in-house rifle buttstock design for the honor guard.

“This is exactly why we are here, to hear from these amazing Airmen on ways to improve our base,” said Snelson. “Many of these ideas fall in line with the current direction of the Air Force and our Chief of Staff’s own strategic approach of ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’.”

Each of the five presenters provided background information on their pitches along with detailed data and possible solutions. After their presentations, the panel had an opportunity to ask questions. Answers to the questions helped Oberhaus and Snelson make an informed decision about the ideas’ investment and purchase potential for the base.

“The Spark Tank was a great showcase of innovative possibilities on the base with joint efforts across the two wings,” said Maj. Andrew Na, 89th AW director of innovation.

According to Na, he started advertising a month in advance for the upcoming Spark Tank event in hopes military members would have innovative ideas. He received five applicants within a few days and spent the next month coordinating with the various agencies who could be involved.

During the event, both colonels gave an initial thumbs up on some of the projects to begin finalization of plans.

“Where we go from here is that these approved ideas will be properly vetted through the legal, finance, and contracting channels to ensure we do everything correctly,” said Na. “The presenters will work with contracting to see what outside company or help is needed and finance will give the final budget approval for the contracts.”

To close out the day’s event, Snelson referenced Gen. Charles Brown, Air Force chief of staff, in final words of encouragement for Airmen to move forward with innovation. 

“To Gen. Brown’s point, ‘Don’t let bureaucracy kill the innovation and ideas,’ let’s keep moving forward,” said Snelson. “We have to tell more Airmen, look at the ideas we’ve funded, and ask ourselves what else can we support going forward.”

Members of the SparkX Cell and Spark Tank committee hope this event spurs more creative ideas around the base. There will be another round of presentations in the near future, but until then, base personnel are encouraged to stop by the SparkX Cell to work on workplace and base problem-solving solutions.

The SparkX Cell is located off Concord Ave next to the base library and can be contacted at 301-981-4817.

To view the recent Spark Tank event, click here.