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News | May 6, 2022

Innovative JBLE Airmen recognized in Spark Tank competition

By Airman 1st Class Chloe Shanes Joint Base Langley-Eustis Public Affairs

The AFWERX program is the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force which teams up with Airmen to procure innovative and revolutionary ideas to expand and better the processes within our Air Force. The Department’s annual innovation competition, Spark Tank, welcomes bright, enthusiastic inventors from all career fields to present their ideas and inventions for a chance to have their projects funded for further growth and expansion. 
 

Joint Base Langley-Eustis opened their Spark Tank lab within the 1st Fighter Wing in 2019 and since then have produced collaborative solutions that have not only been recognized at the local level, but even went on to be a finalist presentation at the third annual Spark Tank competition during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in 2020.

 

The 2022 JBLE Spark Tank top winner, Staff Sgt. Christopher Bachorik, 633d Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, presented Blades of Glory, a solution to elevate foreign object debris left behind from steel blades used for snow removal and protect the pavement from wear and tear of the metal blades.

 

Blades of Glory would incorporate snow plow blades with carbide and ceramic inserts encased in rubber. The rubber blades would have flexibility properties and would not encounter as much wear while also protecting the pavement.

 

“Some of the issues we ran into were pushing wet snow, essentially water, with steel,” said Bachorik. “So with the rubber snow plow blades, we’d have more of a squeegee effect, which would allow the water to actually get pushed off the runway and our roads.”

 

According to Bachorik, rubber blades, with proper care and usage, last up to two years. They require less maintenance, less down time and more snow gets pushed. Since the JBLE area doesn’t get much snow, Bachorik projected the blades would last five to ten years.

 

Blades of Glory would impact JBLE’s lethality and readiness by allowing better preparedness for future snow events and save 80 man hours annually from not having to repair airfield damage from steel blades.

 

The second place winner, Senior Airman Jacob Schroeder, 633d Logistics Readiness Squadron inbound cargo technician, was able to identify an inefficient process within his work center, resulting in possible human error and wasted man-hours. The introduction of his Logistics Tablet Initiative would enable Airmen in the work center to seamlessly deliver cargo to organizations within the installation and allow for real-time delivery, minimizing any Material Management delinquent documents.

 

“About 90% of our job is done manually right now,” said Schroeder. “It’s all hand-written, not much is done on the computer and its always back and forth between our office.”

 

According to Schroeder, the Logistics Tablet Initiative would provide Airmen the capability of real time processing of critical aircraft parts at warehouse workstations. This would allow cargo to be checked in and processed in real time, ultimately saving the work center over 12 hours weekly, and with the ability to deliver aircraft parts to maintenance in a more expedient manner, save over 700 man hours annually.

 

“We want to be able to tell maintainers that [their] piece is right here and we’ll get it to you at this time,” said Schroeder.

 

Schroeder was awarded $10,000 from Col. Gregory Beaulieu, 633d Air Base Wing commander, to help his initiative come to fruition.

 

“We need dreamers,” said Beaulieu. “We need people who think outside the box, that think of how to solve problems differently.”

 

For more information on the Spark Tank competition and other AFWERX programs, please visit afwerx.com.

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