TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE. Calif. – This past Friday once again marked a step forward for Team Travis’ recent forays into the private sector with the goal of stoking collaboration between its Airmen and leaders in the technology industry.
The Friday event, dubbed “Spark Collider 2.0,” invitedrepresentatives of several Silicon Valley-based tech firms onto Travis AFB with the interest of gleaning firsthand accounts of specific problems facing the base and finding ways in which their companies’ resources could help to solve them.
Travis’ Spark Hub, Phoenix Spark, is a program modeled to bridge the challenges of rapid innovation at the unit-level while navigating the administrative hurdles of compliance that often impede the velocity of change.
That proverbial red tape can sometimes be more challenging than the innovation itself, said Col. David Hammerschmidt, 60th Maintenance Group commander.
“If you look up bureaucracy in the dictionary, it says ‘see U.S. government,’” Hammerschmidt laughed. “We’re trying hard to plow through some of that so that we can not only acquire the technologies that are available today, but also battle against some of the obsolescence issues we deal with in working on 30-year-old aircraft.”
Among those aircraft were two the group were given tours of: the C-5M Super Galaxy and the KC-10 Extender.
The areas of research covered by the companies included robotics, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing technology, virtual reality, software development, business and mechanical engineering—all fields that could be utilized in bringing about a top-to-bottom improvement of the U.S. Air Force, said Col. Zach Jiron, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.
“Every job in the Air Force has its unique set of challenges. Even if we only identify a single process, in a single job, that could be streamlined or evolved to execute more effectively, then it’s an improvement that’s well worth the investment,” Jiron said.
Topics and ideas presented to the group over the course of the day ranged in complexity, which aligns with the intent of Phoenix Spark. Innovation is not confined to large-scale projects and advanced technology; instead, many encompass modest solutions to overcome day-to-day challenges.
It’s because of Travis’ geographic proximity to Silicon Valley that events like the Spark Collider are easier to coordinate and, thus, easier to reap benefits from, Hammerschmidt said.
“Travis sits on a wealth of intellectual capital,” he said. “From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, we’re sitting in the middle of a tech hub. We want to work to leverage that capital. We want to foster these partnerships to help us do more with less so that Travis can stay the world’s finest mobility force and so we can have the tools and capabilities to deliver on the promise we make to our country every day by putting on the uniform.”