Tinker hosts first ‘Spark Tank’ competition

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  • By Kevan Goff-Parker, Staff Writer

Master Sgt. Jason Lee Anderson, superintendent of the 72nd Air Base Wing’s Unaccompanied Housing Facilities, walked away a happy Airman on June 20 after winning Tinker Air Force Base’s first-ever “Spark Tank” competition award of $50,000 that will be allocated for the innovative project he promoted.

Spark Tank competitions are the Air Force’s version of the TV show “Shark Tank” in that competitors have five minutes to pitch ideas they want funded for projects that promote readiness, reduce costs or return time to Airmen.

Instead of a “Mr. Wonderful” or Mark Cuban, who star regularly on Shark Tank, Spark Tank contestants sell their ideas to a group of 72nd Air Base Wing’s senior leaders led by 72nd ABW Commander Col. Kenyon K. Bell. 72nd ABW Innovation Funds will finance the winning project.

As the Unaccompanied Housing superintendent, Anderson spent his five minutes explaining the challenges associated with the more than 730 Airmen that sometimes get locked out of their rooms after hours and contractors and residents that lose their keys.

He said the hardships of being locked out after hours and subsequent requests for help has cost the 72nd Security Forces, First Sergeants and others many hours a week to remedy the situations.

“The first person they call is the 72nd Security Forces, and if they can’t do it, they go to the First Sergeants,” Anderson said. “Sometimes the First Sergeants don’t have the ability to get to their requests in a timely manner, so then they’ll call me as well. This includes any type of work orders, floods or any emergencies that happen and then I get those calls as well.”

He said the time wasted to answer the four to eight calls a night each takes about 30 minutes to resolve.

“With the excessive calls to Security Forces, they have limited them down to two calls per night,” Anderson said. “At that point, the call goes to the First Sergeant and they may be at home with their families or at the lake for a weekend. They have to come in and verify the member is who they say they are and then use the master key to let them in. In the event they cannot get a hold of a First Sergeant, I have a 24-hour phone and I have made numerous trips to the base.”

He said he’s been working with a specialized key-oriented security company and they have come up with a solution to the quandary of lost keys at Tinker AFB. If all goes as planned, Anderson will have saved the Tinker AFB $50,000. He also ensured the fully automated key system will be biometric and will scan residents’ and contractors’ fingerprints as well as photograph them before they are able to access a key to their desired room.

“Each Airman will only have access to their key,” Anderson said. “This key system will also save us money. Each key (currently) costs about $7 and we spend probably two to three hours per week tracking these keys. If you extrapolate that $7 per key, the savings for the life of this project could be immense for the government.

“I’ve worked with the company to create a wall-based system with an upgraded locking system where each key is locked individually and identified with a green LED light next to the right key. After 24 hours we will get a report in the morning telling us which keys are still outstanding and that reduces my reports time to send out emails or call the First Sergeants.”

After winning the competition, Anderson said that when he arrived at Tinker AFB six months ago, he “recognized there was a problem with the manpower we were putting into the keys, so we had to find a solution.”

“We will have a one-year warranty and maintenance period on the system, and they’re going to do all the training and installation upfront,” he said.