Robins AFB sparks innovation: Spark Cell hosts inaugural Pitch Day

  • Published
  • By Shellie-Anne Espinosa
  • Robins Air Force Base Public Affairs

The Robins Air Force Base Spark Cell hosted its inaugural Pitch Day Sept. 20 at the Advanced Technology and Training Center, alongside Air Force Sustainment Center Contracting located at Robins AFB. The Pitch Day was a first of its kind for AFSC, cutting a contracting process that can take, on average, 100 days, down to just six.

The event is an initial prototype effort to assess the capabilities of current commercially available virtual reality training systems when used in a military environment, particularly within the 461st and 116th Air Control Wings at Robins AFB.

The team is seeking to rapidly procure commercially available VR technology for the 461st and 116th Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons working with E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft. The technology would allow aircraft maintenance training through the use of training scenarios and modules for JSTARS members.

Successful implementation of a VR training system will enhance the mission effectiveness of about 500 JSTARS aircraft maintenance personnel. According to the Robins AFB Spark Cell and AFSC Contracting at Robins AFB, training retention using VR systems has been shown to be 60% more effective than traditional training.

An added plus to this Pitch Day is the awarding of “Other Transaction Authority” contracts. OTAs are often used to engage industry and academia for research and prototyping activities. OTAs help to speed along the acquisitions process, something that is important within the Air Force, particularly when handling items within the information technology sector where technology is constantly improving at a rapid pace.

Pitch Days allow for people to witness rapid, agile contracting in action. They give a forum for Air Force leadership to see innovative training technology platforms, meet companies within the training industry, and understand the procurement processes that take place to get these state-of-the-art systems into the hands of Airmen.

At the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day held earlier this year in New York City, the Air Force awarded 51 contracts to companies valued at $8.75 million in a matter of minutes.

“The innovation and responsibility Other Transactions give back to the contracting officer and the evaluation team is refreshing and just what is needed to be able to execute an award faster and more efficiently,” said Elizabeth Midkiff, Robins AFSC Operational Services Contracting chief. “Pitch days allow the customer and contractors to interact, have live dialogue about the proposed solution, and receive meaningful feedback. Combing an OT with a pitch day was the perfect chemistry. I am so thankful to the leadership, my team and all the contractors that participated.”

Robins AFB Pitch Day invited 15 companies to make proposals on their VR technology. From those companies, a short list was created to come to Pitch Day and give a 15-minute presentation to a committee of subject matter experts on why their technology will best fill the needs of aircraft maintenance personnel within JSTARS.

After the presentations, the committee worked with Robins AFB OT contracting officers to award one same-day contract.

“The combination of innovation initiatives and rapid agile contracting is the trend in the Air Force as a whole,” said Lt. Col. Jay Vizcarra, Robins AFB Spark Innovation chief. “The innovation hub intends to work closely with AFSC Contracting at Robins (AFB) to bring warfighter capabilities here today and the future faster for Robins.”