The US Air Force continues to maintain mission readiness through the innovation of technology and procedures by identifying current problems and formulating practical solutions.
In April, Dyess Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas was the first base to introduce the Virtual Collider, a forum to discuss challenges and potential areas of improvement around the Air Force.
“A collider is when you facilitate the interaction of airmen and companies,” said Tech Sgt. Andrew Caprio, 7th Bomb Wing deputy director of Rapid Capabilities. “They come together and their worlds collide, which ideally will spark conversations and ideas.”
The airmen who participated in the collider had the opportunity to record themselves describing obstacles they’ve encountered.
The virtual submissions were then viewed by outside companies.
“Our goal was to match each of the 10 airmen with a different company, but we were able to connect 14 companies with the airmen,” said Caprio. “Some of the companies loved the solutions so much that they went after more than one project.”
The projects chosen to be awarded funding will be selected at the end of June. Once a project is selected and funded, the two parties will work with contracting to put the process in motion.
He explained that this is to keep the project from just being conceptual.
Pairing the proposed problems with outside agencies can provide a fresh prospective on finding new and innovative solutions to recurring problems.
“I absolutely feel like there is great value that comes from receiving incredible innovative solutions through the collider,” said Capt. Simon Peña, 7th Force Support Squadron military personnel flight commander. “When you’re handling issues on the inside, it’s easy to lose focus on what the source of the problem is.”
This platform provides airmen with the opportunity to address problems that they have personally encountered to ideally be resolved with a more permanent solution.
“It can be really easy to apply “fixes” that are merely band-aids, instead of treating the actual core problem,” Peña said.
Dyess AFB innovation is led by the Rapid Capabilities office, which is the base’s equivalent to Spark Cell.
“There were a lot of innovative ideas submitted to Rapid Capabilities and a handful of them were selected to be represented at the Virtual Collider,” said Peña. “We met up virtually to discuss how we could turn common flaws into issues that can be readily tackled by outside agencies.”
Although the Virtual Collider was the first of its kind utilized by the Air Force, Rapid Capabilities is anticipating organizing another in the future and is currently providing other bases’ Spark Cells with guidance in conducting similar events.
Peña encourages airmen interested in participating in future Virtual Colliders to contact the Dyess AFB Rapid Capabilities office to get further information on how to get involved.
“It was an amazing experience and opportunity to discuss matters with some very intelligent people,” said Peña. “We’ve had an incredible amount of amazing ideas result from this event, some of which we’re looking to implement even sooner than initially expected.”