Security Forces, Public Affairs Among Winners at 2024 Tinker Spark Tank Competition
By Clayton Cummins, Tinker AFB, OK, Published May 29, 2024

Judges of the 2024 Spark Tank Competition ask questions to presenters who are advocating their innovative idea be funded at Tinker Air Force Base May 14, 2024. The annual Spark Tank competition leverages the inherent innovation of Airmen to create transformative opportunities and foster a culture of innovation to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the 72nd Air Base Wing’s mission to train hard, rapidly deploy, fight and win. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Paul Shirk)

$30,000 in Spark Tank Innovation funds were awarded to two entities of the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base May 14, 2024.

Spark Tank is an annual competition where Airmen pitch innovative ideas to 72nd Air Base Wing leadership. Ideas must be aimed at creating transformative opportunities and foster a culture of innovation to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the 72nd ABW’s mission to train hard, rapidly deploy, fight and win.

Submissions for the competition were accepted in early 2024. The top six submissions were voted on and presented to 72nd ABW leadership at the Tinker Event Center.

Judges of the Spark Tank competition consisted of Col. Abby Ruscetta, 72nd Air Base Wing and Installation commander, Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Sipos, 72nd ABW Command Chief, Maj. Michael Kazakoff, 72nd Comptroller Squadron Commander, Chief Master Sgt.  Thomas Kasten, 72nd Mission Support Group Senior Enlisted Leader and Ms. Roena Roberts, 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Director.

For this year’s competition, Team Tinker was challenged to think about innovative solutions to transform how the 72nd ABW drives research, development, testing, sustainment, support, and infrastructure to optimize combat readiness in all aspects.

“The big idea here is, we put our money where our mouth is,” said Ruscetta. “We reward our innovators so we can let them pursue their ideas.”

Awarded $15,000, and placing third, was the 72nd ABW Public Affairs Office with its idea to upgrade and modernize its photo studio. The upgrade aims to increase efficiency in room set-up and switching between photo styles, backdrops and assist with customer experience.

72nd Security Forces Squadron was awarded $10,000, and second place, with its idea to build a new training site. The facility, created within an existing building, would be used for active shooter training, close quarters battle and any other threat response. Spark Tank Innovation funds will be used to provide doors/windows and potentially provide the rest of the funding to finish the project.

Master Sgt Alejandro Figueroa presents his idea to construct a larger, more effective training site for the 72nd Security Forces Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base May 14, 2024. The annual Spark Tank competition leverages the inherent innovation of Airmen to create transformative opportunities and foster a culture of innovation to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the 72nd Air Base Wing’s mission to train hard, rapidly deploy, fight and win. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Paul Shirk)

First place, and $5,000, was also awarded to 72nd Security Forces Squadron for its submission to purchase iPads. Defenders will use the tablets to gain instant access to multiple law enforcement databases which enable agencies to operate more efficiently, effectively, and safely in fulfilling their mission to protect and serve the community.

“There are a lot of smart people in this room that came together with some great ideas to push forward,” said Ruscetta. “Thank you for bringing your ideas and for the courage to come up here to present and pitch them.  For those who did not win today—hold your head high.  You have a great idea and you stood tall today and presented it to us.  Keep pushing those good ideas.”

Anthony Drummond, representing the 72nd ABW Civil Engineering Directorate and Joshua Schwertner, representing the 72nd ABW Communications Directorate, also presented ideas to the Spark Tank judges.

The Spark Tank competition is slated to return in 2025, where leadership hope to see another group of innovators come forward with ideas to transform how the 72nd ABW drives research, development, testing, sustainment, support, and infrastructure to optimize combat readiness in all aspects.

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