SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Innovation and technology have been buzzwords around Sheppard for the past several years, and many Airmen – military and civilian – have answered the call to advance training.
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center is seeking those with bright ideas to join in this year’s Innovation Rodeo, which is under way now and runs through Dec. 1, 2020. Each entry has an opportunity at $1 million in funding and resources to put their ideas into motion.
Lt. Col. Scotty Sproles, 82nd Mission Support Group deputy commander and Sheppard’s point of contact for this collection period, said the focus of the third annual event is “Base of the Future,” which includes exploring the possibilities of augmented and virtual realities, installation resilience and other capabilities.
“We have an outstanding opportunity to shape the future of our installations to maximize resiliency and agility, while maintaining focus on our most important assets: our Airmen, their families, and our civilian workforce,” he said. “So if you have a great idea to help shape the Air Force Base of tomorrow, we’d love to hear from you.”
Here’s how to enter:
• Login to https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/a/campaign-home/181.
• Competitors entering for the first time must complete an account profile before browsing or submitting ideas.
• Select “Submit New Idea.”
• Complete the idea submission fields. Required fields are marked by a red asterisk.
• Select “Submit Idea.”
• Ask colleagues to login and provide input and vote for their favorite idea.
Finalists will be notified in early January 2021. Airmen with the top ideas will have an opportunity to learn from leading innovators and pitch their ideas to a panel of Air Force leaders at the AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo competition on Feb. 5.
“We can’t wait to see what ideas I&MS Airmen have for us this year!” said Emilie Miller, an innovation program analyst with AFIMSC Ventures. “They keep impressing us with their passion and ingenuity and we’re excited to continue working hard with them to change the Air Force.”
The AFIMSC Innovation Office has evolved substantially over the last 20 months, and is introducing AFIMSC Ventures, serving as “angel investors for ground-breaking” ideas to better support AFIMSC’s primary subordinate units and Airmen across the enterprise, Miller added.
Past winners include:
• Mobile apps to make life easier for Airmen and their families, including one to centralize and streamline the subletting of short-term slots at military child development centers; one for base announcements and community events; and one to share feedback about customer experiences.
• An idea to replace the current manual mapping of underground cabling and wiring with the use of augmented reality;
• A project to leverage Geospatial Information Systems and aerial imagery for facility roof inspections;
• A proposal to use autonomous robotic lawn mowers to cut the grass in and around airfields at night to reduce aircraft bird-strike hazards.
Winning projects are in now various stages of development, including an idea from the inaugural event in 2019 – an app now called the Wing Feedback App – which is getting ready for a pilot test this fall.
Seeing it grow from an idea to a developed app undergoing testing has been exciting for Lt. Col. Karen Landale, a member of the pitch team who’s still heavily involved in development and testing.
“It feels incredible and it makes me believe that it really is a small group of committed people who can make a big difference for our Air Force. Anything is possible when you're willing to commit time and energy to important projects,” she said.
Landale encourages Airmen to share their ideas and take advantage of opportunities like the AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo.
“Don't wait,” she said. “When an opportunity like the Innovation Rodeo presents itself, sell your idea to the people who can help make it a reality.
“You'll be surprised by the number of people who'll want to join you when they see you have a good and important idea. The Air Force has no shortage of problems to fix and no shortage of talent to fix those problems. AFIMSC offers opportunities to provide the time, funding and attention needed to solve Air Force problems. I think it's one of AFIMSC's strongest value propositions.”
For more information about the AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo, email AFIMSC.Innovation@us.af.mil.
Editor’s note: Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs contributed to this article.