AETC Airmen named Finalists in 2021 Spark Tank Challenge

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Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, Texas - Three Airmen from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, will represent Air Education and Training Command during the Spark Tank Challenge at the virtual Air Force Association Aerospace Warfare Symposium Feb. 24-26. Spark Tank is an annual event where Airmen pitch innovative ideas to top Air Force leadership and a panel of industry experts.

Lt. Col. Alexander Turner, 56th Operations Support Squadron director of operations; Maj. Kevin Hawkins, 56th OSS wing intelligence chief; and 1st Lt. Adam Treece, 56th OSS intelligence readiness chief; teamed up with Dylan Kerr, Arizona State University student, to develop a 3-D augmented reality system that will revolutionize the way pilots conduct mission debriefs.

The 56th Fighter Wing’s Next-Gen Debrief – Augmented Reality Debrief Environment idea is one of five 2021 Spark Tank finalists.  Their submission was among 300 entries.

“Clearly, they are working to deliver new capabilities at the operational point of need aligned with and in direct support of Gen. CQ Brown’s vision to accelerate change and ensure warfighters maintain our competitive advantage,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, AETC commander.

The Luke team worked to adapt Microsoft HoloLens2 smart-glasses into a tool for aircrews to conduct detailed mission debriefs using an interactive, three-dimensional perspective.

“Augmented reality enables individuals wearing the smart glasses to interact with others and their surroundings,” said Hawkins. “The debrief process is fundamental to how we train to fly and this tool enables instructors to truly see if the student pilots understand the information.”

As a finalist, they will virtually pitch the idea to the Spark Tank judges at the AFA Symposium Feb. 26.

“AETC’s innovation efforts and back-to-back selection to the Spark Tank finals continue to inspire more Airmen to discover, uncover and drive new innovations that further foster AETC’s culture of excellence,” Col. William Mamourieh, AETC’s director of Analysis and Innovation, said. “We continue to be amazed at the ideas that come forward from Airmen and revolutionize the way we train and learn.  Seeing these ideas come to fruition and develop the Airmen we need is truly inspiring.”

During last year’s Spark Tank event, the team representing Luke and AETC were named co-champions. First Lt. Daniel Treece and Capt. David Coyle, 56th FW intelligence officers, joined forces with Wylie Standage-Beier, doctoral candidate in electrical engineering at Arizona State University, to develop an affordable solution for the limited and lackluster threat resources available to F-35 pilot trainees who use the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

The overall winner is chosen by popular vote from thousands of virtual attendees for the symposium. The Spark Tank Challenge is designed to encourage innovators.