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Smart locker idea wins AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo

Photo of smart lockers idea briefing

Airman 1st Class Ricardo Morales, an E8-C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System journeyman with the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., presents an idea for a smart locker system to senior leaders during the 2021 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Rodeo, Feb. 5, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Morales won first place in the event, earning a share of $1 million in funding and resources to pursue his idea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)


An idea for a smart locker mail system in base dorms won the 2021 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Rodeo Feb. 5 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Airman 1st Class Ricardo “Noah” Morales, an E8-C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System journeyman with the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, will receive a share of $1 million in funding from AFIMSC to develop his idea for potential implementation across the Air Force and Department of Defense.

“We have seen so many good ideas today. The amount of work our finalists put into these presentations and put into this work over the last (few) months is absolutely amazing and it really shined through today,” said Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, AFIMSC commander, as he announced winners of the third annual event designed to identify and fund top installation and mission support innovations.

Morales came up with the idea for smart lockers after joining the Air Force and realizing the service lacked package pickup and delivery options for Airmen living in base dorms. Because of work schedules, mail processing time and limited post office hours, he said Airmen sometimes wait several days to get their mail and packages.

“I wondered, ‘why we don’t bring this technology to the Air Force since it is an already proven solution in the commercial sector?’” he said.

A state of the art, secure mail locker system in the dorms is a simple way for the Air Force to boost quality of life for Airmen, he explained. The system would benefit the installation postal operations as well because it can free up space and improve mailroom-processing times.

Morales’ idea and commitment to making a change impressed the entire panel of senior installation and mission support leaders, including
Chief Master Sgt. Edwin Ludwigsen, AFIMSC command chief master sergeant.

“I’m proud of you,” he told Morales during the award presentation. “You saw a problem, you thought of a solution and you went out there and found an avenue to get after it and that’s what we need. You are our future and our future is bright with Airmen like you. Thank you for what you’ve done and congratulations.”

With a theme of Base of the Future, this year’s innovation rodeo gave Airmen a chance to help shape how installations can look and function in the future.

Conducted virtually due to
COVID-19, eight finalists spent a week learning from leading innovators and honing their pitches before trying to convince a panel of five senior Air Force installation and mission support leaders that their idea was the best.

Other 2021 Innovation Rodeo winners include:

Second Place:
Auto-Ping - DBIDS scanner, Staff Sgt. Jordon Varnier, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Varnier’s idea for an executable script for Microsoft PowerShell sends a ping - test packets of data - to Defense Biometrics Identification System, or DBIDS, ID scanners to determine whether they are online or offline. The script allows a base security officer to determine if there are any offline scanners without traveling to each entry control point.

Third Place: 3D Interior Scanner, Master Sgt. Luke Rogan, Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Scott McClure, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and Capt. Nathanael Kohl, JBER. The team’s idea involves a multi-phase strategic plan for modeling Air Force facilities in 3D. Using modern tools, the Air Force can establish a library of accurate 3D real property files at a fraction of current costs and labor hours.

In addition to naming the top three winners, Wilcox had a surprise announcement for all finalists.

“You are all winners today because I’m going to put money to all eight of your ideas. (AFIMSC is giving) at least $50,000 to each one of your ideas to push them to the next level, to scale them, to make them right,” he said.

In addition to funding, finalists will receive support from the AFIMSC Ventures office which is uniquely positioned to help Airmen and Guardians develop, fund and implement an execution strategy for their ideas, said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer.

“Since our office stood up in November 2018, we’ve helped installation and mission support Airmen land more than $70 million for their ideas,” he said. “We’ve connected innovative Airmen and Guardians with Department of Defense and industry partners to help develop and implement their ideas and we can’t wait to get started with these finalists.”


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