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ACC leaders select Spark Tank finalists

  • Published
  • By Staff. Sgt. Cassandra Johnson
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs

Air Combat Command leaders announced the command’s two 2022 Spark Tank finalists here today, Nov. 1. 

The Air Force’s annual Spark Tank competition, which began in 2017, offers an opportunity to empower Airmen to challenge their environments and find innovative solutions to fix processes within their units and command. Cultivating a culture of forward-thinking and innovation helps the Air Force streamline processes to prepare for the future fight. 

ACC finalists were selected after presenting their innovative ideas along with three other top submissions from around the command. The ACC finalists’ ideas will be submitted to AFWERX, where they will compete against winners from other major commands. The other three teams will move ahead to the challenge as wildcard entries.

ACC’s 2022 Spark Tank finalists are:

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Samples, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, 1st Fighter Wing -

Samples works as the non-commissioned officer in charge of wing innovation and pitched his design idea for an adapter kit that enables an F-22 canopy to be loaded onto a standard engine trailer. Currently, when an F-22 canopy, which weighs 300 pounds, has to be removed for maintenance it is then placed on a stand weighing 400 pounds. This setup, now weighing 700 pounds, is only able to be moved by hand, which increases the risk of damaging the canopy and is added work for Airmen. Samples’ innovative design would create a towing system that eliminates strenuous labor for Airmen, decreases the cargo space for transportation by 95 percent, and decreases production cost by 80 percent as compared to the current equipment.

“It’s an honor to be a part of Spark Tank, and it is incredible that an idea which came about by trying to help my fellow egress brothers and sisters will be moving on to AFWERX,” said Samples. “None of this would have been possible without exceptional leaders and a supportive team. They are the fulcrum of change.”

Maj. Giselle Rieschick, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, 99th Medical Support Squadron –

While deployed with the 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Rieschick and her team identified a new method for timely transportation of blood for combat casualty care. Rieschick presented her idea to use Category 2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to fill this need. Currently, transportation of blood is dependent on airlift opportunities that can be impacted by the environment, weather, maintenance delays and limited aircraft availability. According to the team, a UAV would be ready within an hour to transport blood to a forward operating location, which could increase the survival rates of injured personnel and reduce waste.

"It is humbling to be a part of such amazing competition that seeks to accelerate change within our organizations and I am excited and honored to be able to help our warfighters by leveraging the newest technology available to get our mission accomplished more efficiently,” said Rieschick. “I truly feel that our legacy is to leave the military better than we found it, and this is what we are trying to accomplish here. Thanks to my team and my leadership for their willingness to accept risk while encouraging innovation."

Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of ACC, thanked the competitors and underscored the importance of Spark Tank. 

“A huge thanks to all the teams for submitting their ideas and putting the hard work into developing them,” said Kelly. “We say in our Air Force that every Airman is an innovator; they are an innovator until they run into a regulation that tells them why they can’t innovate anything different. Our job here is to find the legal and ethical way to yes.” 

The top six Air Force level winners will go on to compete in the final round at the Air Force Association Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, in March 2022.