SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center has a “Call for Topics” now through Dec. 1 for its third annual Innovation Rodeo.
The Innovation Rodeo resembles the television show “Shark Tank” where investors – in this case a panel of three to four members of senior leadership – listen to Airmen pitch a product, which ranges from phone applications to augmented reality technology.
Airmen’s ideas are then vetted and selected to proceed to the finals where senior leadership then selects first-, second- and third-place winners.
The event welcomes mission support groups and civilians to participate and winners of will earn a share of $1 million to fund their innovation.
Since the event began in 2019, Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, AFIMSC commander, said the Innovation Rodeo flipped a $3 million innovation budget into more than $65 million in venture capital to support Airmen’s ideas.
“Our last two Innovation Rodeos have been resounding successes,” Wilcox said. “We’ve turned ideas into reality for [remotely powered aircraft], advanced sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning, software bots and mobile apps.”
Though first through third place earns about $333,000 for their product, it’s possible to obtain more financing for their projects.
“[Installation and Mission Support funds] can transition their $333,000 into more than $1 million because of a $750,000 [Small Business Innovative Research Funds] match,” said Dustin Dickens, AFIMSC Innovation project manager.
Maj. Jacque Vasta, Air Force Personnel Center section commander and previously stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, won the 2020 Innovation Rodeo.
The major’s idea, an app and web platform called Kinderspot, earned $1.3 million in funding the concept.
Kinderspot will allow Air Force members to sublease their kid’s childcare spot to eligible families with short-term childcare requirements.
The application and website will be tested February 2021 in three locations – one at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and two bases to be determined.
Vasta had the idea for Kinderspot four years ago after struggling to sublease her child’s daycare spot prior to a temporary duty station assignment.
“After having gone through the subleasing process, I had a lightning bolt of a vision of what the app could look like,” Vasta said. “Putting that [idea] to paper and creating a presentation to show other people what I [have] took some time, effort and a lot of collaboration with a lot of friends and mentors.”
Dickens said mentors and leadership bridge the gap between ideas and executing concepts so winners can advance their products.
Without the aforementioned assistance and the Innovation Rodeo, Vasta said Kinderspot may not have come to fruition.
“They provided the funding and the contracting specialist. I’m still involved with Kinderspot, but I have my partners holding my hand along the way to execute it,” Vasta said. “If you want to be an innovator and improve the Air Force, the event is ideal to present your idea.”
Finals for the Innovation Rodeo will be held Feb. 1-5, 2021 and will take place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Vasta said Airmen should take advantage of the resources at the Innovation Rodeo.
“I’ve been waiting for my lightbulb moment and [Kinderspot] was it,” Vasta said. “After my failed experience with the way the [subleasing] was going, I thought there was a real opportunity to streamline subleasing [child care spots] across the Air Force. Having this product across the [Department of Defense] would be the dream.”
For more information about the AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo, email AFIMSC.Innovation@us.af.mil. To submit an idea for the event, visit at https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/a/campaign-home/181.