Ideas to transform space warfighting training, innovation workspaces named AETC Spark Tank 2020 Challenge winners

  • Published
  • By Dan Hawkins
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

Ideas to transform space warfighting training and how to best build a culture of innovation were named Air Education and Training Command Spark Tank 2020 Challenge winners here Oct. 31, 2019.

The 381st Training Group’s idea to transform low-fidelity training into a student-centered, solid foundation for space warfighters and Air University’s “Give Makers Space” idea that enables creative, innovative Airmen to devise solutions in a dedicated makerspace by providing physical space in which to work.

“This year’s competition was intense,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Weatherington, AETC deputy commander. “Every entry was well thought-out and illustrates the expertise we have across the First Command to develop innovative solutions and improve our overall efficiency.”

The two teams earned $2,500 from the Airmen Powered by Innovation (API) program and will also represent AETC at the next level of the Spark Tank 2020 competition.  

The “Enhancing Warfighting Innovation through Software Training” project was developed by Capt. Alex Hartenburg and Capt. Perry Van Zandt, instructors with the 533rd Training Squadron, part of the 381st TRG at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“The project addresses one of the gaps in tactical space operations that space operators are not taught, nor do they typically possess, which are the skills required to use programming software to script and produce the models necessary to plan, critically think, and problem solve for space-based engagements,” said Sean Harrington, AETC innovation office.

Created by Maj. Spenser Lee at Air University, the “Give Makers Space” idea encourages ingenuity and creativity in every Airman, by creating physical space to ideate, develop and iterate creative endeavors.  It also outlines the need to develop policies to guarantee Airmen the time and space to express that creativity, as well as ways to encourage commanders to promote and reward Airmen to tackle everyday challenges.

“The makerspace promotes the sharing of design experience and opportunities to Airmen,” Harrington said.

Makerspaces provide creative tools including 3D printers, 3D scanners, measuring equipment, high-performance computers, design software, white boards, feedstock, and associated hand tools. The pilot program for “Give Makers Space” is a research initiative at Squadron Officer School (SOS) called “AF Maker” and is conducted under the AU Advanced Research Elective.

Since its inception in September 2017, the Spark Tank competition has been a high-profile, public forum that celebrates the innovations of Airmen while identifying avenues to increase lethality and cost-effective modernization, pushing boundaries to pursue future technologies and recognizing problems and creative solutions.