Maxwell hosts Spark at the Max to showcase innovative ideas

  • Published
  • By Mark Gaston
  • Air University Public Affairs

The 42nd Air Base Wing partnered with MGMWERX to host their annual Spark at the Max on April 7, 2023.

The Spark tank-style event invests in the innovative and problem-solving ideas of Airmen and Guardians to improve readiness, recover Airmen's time, save costs, and increase the force's lethality. The challenge to the Airmen was to provide innovative solutions to the perennial statement, "If I had resources, I'd change this…"

There were 12 total submissions narrowed down to five for the event. The goal of Spark at the Max is to present viable innovations that the installation can support and deploy to the benefit of Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex. $200K in squadron innovation funds go towards the ideas to make them a reality.

"The quality of these ideas, paired with the passion and professionalism of the Airmen presenting them, reflect an Air and Space Force culture inspired to improve mission conditions for both force and family.," said Col. Ryan Richardson, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. "Furthermore, some of the ideas served to remind me, as an installation commander, that I can do better to listen and use our corporate structure events to fund and field these capabilities before ‘Spark’ events feel like a last chance to get ‘em done."

The contest participants, also known as spark starters, were:

  • Master Sgt. David Spencer, 42nd Security Forces Squadron, won first prize, pitched acquiring wrong-way detection equipment.
  • Staff Sgt. Kristina Smathers, 42nd Communications Squadron, voted fan favorite, pitched the concept for an Assignment Swap platform.
  • Ms. Missy Rentero, 42nd Force Support Squadron, pitched buying nine devices to update the marketing displays from the office via computer.
  • 1st Lt. Kevin Varga and Airman 1st Class Malik Henderson, 42nd CS, pitched purchasing small all-terrain “gators” vehicles for the Airmen to use for transportation to work on help desk tickets.
  • Team Schriever, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College pitched the Eliminate Low Value Tasks platform.

"Because every second counts, it was important for me to submit this idea to give our defenders more of a reactionary gap. The system will provide our defenders with another tool to protect the men and women on base," said Spencer. "The outcome of implementing the system will not only reduce the number of gate runners, but have zero vehicles make it past the active vehicle barrier system, whether through miscommunication or an actual real-world threat."

Accelerating change requires a strong partnership with the industry, and the wing collaborated with MGMWERX to sponsor this event to gather creative ideas and showcase them to spark other ideas in the future.

"MGMWERX's establishment is to support innovation efforts for Air University. Projects like this align with our mission to accelerate ideas into action," said Joyce Vaughn, MGMWERX director. "Sponsoring events like Spark at the Max allows MGMWERX to display the ideas of Airmen and civilians, highlighting the variety of thought and expertise housed at Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex."