JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The run-up to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s fourth annual Innovation Rodeo began with the start of a call-for-topics campaign.
The campaign, open through June 6, gives military and civilian members of the Department of the Air Force’s mission and installation support community a chance to win part of $1 million or more in funding and resources to pursue their ideas.
The year’s theme is Accelerate Change through Innovation.
“Innovation is a key mechanism to meeting the charge of our Air Force senior leaders to adapt and work differently,” said Pitman Kennedy, an innovation program analyst with AFIMSC Ventures. “Talented Airmen and Guardians at all levels across the installation and mission support enterprise have great ideas. They know how to innovate, they know how to accelerate change, and we want to help them do that.”
Back in person after going virtual during the pandemic, the 2022 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo will bring finalists to San Antonio for a week in August to learn from leading innovators, collaborate with industry partners and network with peers, senior leaders, and innovation teams. Finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of senior leaders at the end of the week.
“We are excited to be growing this one-of-a kind innovation opportunity empowering our Airmen and Guardians,” said Jadee Purdy, AFIMSC chief innovation officer.
This year, innovation teams from each AFIMSC primary subordinate unit – the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the Air Force Security Forces Center, the Air Force Services Center and the Air Force Installation Contracting Center – will help finalists move their projects forward.
“Creating project teams with the right functional experts and stakeholders helps the finalists get traction, award contracts and ultimately have a positive impact on the Air Force,” Purdy said.
When it comes to funding, AFIMSC Ventures knows how to find available dollars and put them to work, Kennedy said. Since standing up in 2018, the team has turned an initial $1 million budget into $85 million by leveraging Air Force and venture capital funding programs.
Over the past three years, the center has handed out millions of dollars through the Innovation Rodeo and grown that seed money into millions more. They hope to do the same this year, Purdy said.
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.
- An idea to replace the current manual mapping of underground cabling and wiring with the use of augmented reality glasses;
- A project to leverage Geospatial Information Systems and aerial imagery for roof inspections; and
- A secure mail locker system giving Airmen and Guardians living in dorms convenient access to their mail and packages while freeing up space and reducing mail-processing times at base post offices.
A grand opening ribbon cutting for last year’s winning idea, smart lockers, is planned for March 30 at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. The idea was submitted by Senior Airman Ricardo Morales, 461st Maintenance Squadron at Robins AFB.
"It was an absolute honor to win first place, because it reflected long hours and hard work to find an innovative solution that would help not just Airmen around Robins, but throughout the Air Force," he said. "I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the implementation, and I couldn't have done it without the support of my local innovation hub."
Morales credited the AFIMSC Ventures team for implementing and fielding the idea so quickly.
"Their connections to industry really helped, and we held biweekly meetings to overcome roadblocks and discuss potential solutions," Morales said.
Morales encourages anyone – no matter their rank – with an idea to take a chance on getting selected for the 2022 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo.
"Anyone can make a difference in the Air Force," he said. "Don't walk past a problem."
Ideas for the 2022 Innovation Rodeo can be submitted at https://gain.apps.dso.mil/usaf/afimscmsg.