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‘What’s Up’ app among eight finalists for AFIMSC’s inaugural ‘Innovation Rodeo’

AF Connect

Col. Houston Cantwell’s previous job as the 49th wing commander at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., opened his eyes to the importance of connectivity. His entry to this year’s AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo is the “What’s Up” App, to allow for a centralized bulletin board for an Air Force base community. In the photo, USAF Connect was implemented as a way to enhance access to the information Airmen need to manage their Air Force life and career. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --

Col. Houston Cantwell’s previous job as the 49th wing commander at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., opened his eyes to the importance of connectivity.

“Air Force bases are communities with countless organizations, such as clubs and force support squadrons, hosting events throughout the week,” said Cantwell, vice superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. “The problem is there is no ‘central bulletin board’ to allow visibility. Multiple Sharepoint sites, email announcements and commander’s calendars all attempt to increase visibility. In the end, most events occur with limited visibility despite our best efforts.

“Moving forward is the key to get the information in the hands of the community on their hand-held device.”

Cantwell and Cadet Second Class Yann Wollman, director of the cadet center for innovation, moved forward and submitted the idea of a “What’s Up” app to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Office’s “Call for Innovation” campaign. The idea was chosen among eight finalists to participate in AFIMSC’s inaugural “Innovation Rodeo” March 1 in San Antonio.

The campaign ended Jan. 31 and received 122 submissions and more than 2,000 online votes. The office selected eight ideas to advance to the “Innovation Rodeo,” where competitors with the top three ideas will receive $200,000 to get their ideas to prototype via AFWERX and tech accelerators.

“Our senior leaders have committed to participating in weeklong events, where it’s all about the Airmen and their ideas,” said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer. “We want to transition those ideas into the innovation ecosystem and AFWERX challenges so we can get those ideas into prototype and then the implementation phase across the I&MS enterprise.”

Other finalists chosen were:

• Installation Access Control of the Future / Artificial Intelligence Facial Recognition, submitted by Lt. Col. Carlos Hernandez, Air Force Security Forces Center, JBSA-Lackland and Col. Jeffrey York, 31st Mission Support Group commander, Aviano AB, Italy. Lt. Col. Jesse Goens, 31st Security Forces Squadron commander at Aviano, will present on behalf of York.

• Virtual Visitor Control Center/ Visitor Kiosk, submitted 2nd Lt. DJ Smith, 502nd Communications Squadron, JBSA-Lackland, Steven Dews, 502nd SFS, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Tech Sgt. Brian Lawley, 802nd SFS, JBSA-Lackland, and Senior Master Sgt. Alvin Arguello, AFSFC.

• Supply Inventory Management System App, submitted by Master Sgt. Nicole Haun, 87th MSG, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, who will be accompanied by two contractors.

• An app to assist in contracting officer representative duties, submitted by Roger Westermeyer, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency enterprise sourcing support director. Lt. Col. Karen Landale, 773rd ESS, will present on behalf of Westermeyer.

• Leverage existing Geospatial Information System AI learning for facility roof inspections, submitted by 2nd Lt. Alexander Bow, 627th Civil Engineer Squadron, JB-Lewis McChord, Washington, and Capt. Gregory Hege, Air Force Central Command, Al Udeid, Iraq. Hege is deployed, and Bow is partnering with 1st Lt. Tim Sobieski, 627th ABG, JBLM.

• Self-adjusting wide area detection using unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, submitted by John Shackell, AFSFC.

• Emergency airfield lighting system auxiliary motor upgrade, submitted by Senior Airman Jordan Pitts, 319th CES, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.

Building a sense of community and transparency is a leadership responsibility, Cantwell said.

“The more our Airmen feel a part of their organization, the better they perform at work, the more they want to stay in our ranks—so we think this initiative is very important and one that needs to be addressed,” the colonel said.  “We’re ready to lead the conversation. We’ve given a tremendous amount of thought on this concept and believe we have identified a way to break down barriers to significantly greater community involvement in local events.”

Cantwell also praised Vandeveer and his team for taking the innovation lead on challenges facing installations.

“It seems a large percentage of innovation efforts have focused on operations and maintenance concepts,” Cantwell said. “As Airmen we need to consistently encourage those within our ranks to carefully observe what goes on around them, ask tough questions as to ‘why,’ experiment with new ideas, link seemingly disparate ideas, and network with experts from unfamiliar areas or expertise. Challenges such as the IMSC Call for Innovation provide incentives to reflect on these important habits of mind.”