U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, commander of Air Education Training Command, presents the iChallenge first place Accelerate Change Award to Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University commander and president, during the iExpo award ceremony inside the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 6, 2021. The iChallenge was created to help inspire personnel around AETC to create new and innovative ways of completing the Air Force mission. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., put in place the Accelerate Change or Lose strategic approach in August 2020 to recognize the rapidly changing technology in the world and to encourage positive change in the Air and Space Forces. This action order has helped shape ideas presented during this year's iChallenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
AETC Announces Winners of iChallenge 2021
By Miriam A. Thurber, Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs / Published May 10, 2021
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, announced the winners of the AETC iChallenge and awarded a combined $300,000 during the annual Gathering of the Torch event at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The winners will work with their wing leadership to use the funds to further advance their ideas.
“The ideas our talented Airmen bring to the table never cease to amaze me,” said Webb. “Judging this competition wasn’t easy, and we are thrilled to be able to fund several exceptional projects our Airmen developed. In order for us to remain ready and lethal, we must be receptive to and adopt new leading-edge ideas that complete our mission.”
Winners were chosen by a selection committee, chaired by Webb, and featured members from AETC’s senior AETC leaders. Winning submissions were judged based on alignment with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ action orders or AETC Strategic Action Plan priorities.
iChallenge Category 1: Accelerate Change Award
“Winners in this category were challenged to develop innovations in direct support of CSAF Brown’s priority to accelerate change or lose,” said Col. Leonard T. Rose, HQ AETC Analysis and Innovation Director. “The selection committee felt these innovations best met the award criteria and that implementation would accelerate the changes needed.”
First place: Dr. Scott Nykl, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), won for “Cyber Space Odyssey,” which provides hands-on cyber education through competitive scenarios in an interactive environment powered by a networked 3D graphics engine. He took home $75,000 for AFIT.
Second place: Staff Sgt. Quinton Collins, from 502nd Air Base Wing (502 ABW) at JBSA, for “Quick Assurance Automated Memorandum Quality Control.” The automated program reviews text and highlights issues in the document to meet the requirements of the organization’s writing guide and Tongue and Quill. Collins will collect $50,000 to be used by the 502 ABW.
iChallenge Category 2: Torch Award
The Torch Award was awarded to innovators who best supported one or more AETC strategic priorities: Advance Force Development, Enhance Lethality and Readiness, Transform the Way We Learn, and/or Cultivate an Environment of Excellence.
First place: Mr. Matthew Correia, instructor at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development at Air University, won for his “Game of Professionals,” a cloud-based single and/or multi-player interactive game with scenarios that engage the players’ critical-thinking, emotional intelligence, ethical decision making and problem solving competencies to achieve success. Correia’s organization will receive $65,000.
Second place and $50,000 for their wing: Master Sgt. Carlos Santiago, Superintendent of the Air Traffic Control Apprentice Course at the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. His air traffic control training application will provide an interactive and portable reference tool of course information that can be accessed from a student's phone or tablet anytime, anywhere.
Honorable mention for the iChallenge Torch Award is Staff Sgt. Justis Machenzie, Music Arranger from the 502 ABW at JBSA for “How to Fix Every Zoom Meeting.” His program allows multiple media inputs, such as webcam, still images, screenshots, pre-recorded videos, and live screen sharing into one platform (e.g. Zoom), with no sacrifice in video quality. Machenzie’s honorable mention win garnered $10,000 for the 502 ABW.
iChallenge Adapt Award
In addition to iChallenge Accelerate Change and Torch Awards, the committee named winners to the Adapt Award, which recognizes projects that were attempted, did not meet the desired results, but the lessons learned they installed earned selection committee support toward full implementation.
First place winner of the iChallenge Adapt Award and $25,000 for their wing is Tech Sgt. Nikolaus Gottschalk, Air Launch Missile Maintenance instructor supervisor from the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard AFB, Texas, for “Game as a Teaching Augment.” The innovation uses different styles of games for a variety of teaching and study environments to foster student engagement
“While the original try was not as successful as hoped, the project teams took the lessons they learned, and proved to AETC leadership that gamification could increase student retention by upwards of 50 percent,” said Mr. Chris Adams, AETC Innovation Advancement Division Chief. “Taking risks and learning from it is what the iChallenge Adapt Award is all about.”
Second place winner of the iChallenge Adapt Award and $25,000 for their wing is 1st Lt. Kasey Stout, Academic Program Manager and Executive Officer, and Dr. Alice Grimes, Director of Faculty Development at AFIT for their “Facilitator Cadre Program” submission. This program leverages small group discussions as an effective way for getting Airmen’s inputs, cultivating a sense of belonging and being heard.
“The AETC spirit is one of innovation and excellence and these cutting-edge initiatives and programs created by Airmen continue the progress being made to keep our Air Force ready and lethal,” said Rose. “Every Airman who submitted an idea is a winner.”
AETC innovators submitted their ideas through IdeaScale between November 2020 and March 2021. Those who submitted the top ideas were selected to present their idea in April to Lt. Gen. Webb and the AETC Selection Committee via a 10-minute virtual idea pitch and question/answer session.
For more information about the iChallenge, contact HQ AETC/A9A, the Innovation Advancement Division, at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out AETC’s innovation page on www.aetc.af.mil.