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BEDROCK: It only takes a SPARK …

Logo for the Dover Air Force Base Innovation Team. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Mauricio Campino)

Logo for the Dover Air Force Base Innovation Team. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Mauricio Campino)


Barney was finally able to relax. His wife was snoring in the passenger seat, and both toddlers had fallen asleep in the second row of the family minivan. Only 120 miles separated his family from the world-renowned resort where Barney had secured a ski-in chalet for a powder weekend. Grinning, Barney reached for his smartphone, which was mounted to the dash, to turn off the Frozen soundtrack …




The minivan hit a monstrous pothole, sending the phone flying. As if in slow motion, the iMissile eluded Barney’s grasping hand as it flew through the air and struck his wife in the forehead, eliciting a string of profanities directed at Barney. Altering its flight path, the projectile careened into a disposable coffee cup, launching coffee-flavored napalm in all directions.  His phone’s screen went black … as did the vehicle’s infotainment system.


Swerving to the shoulder, Barney managed to bring the minivan to a stop. In the passenger seat, his wife had redirected her attention to the screaming toddlers in the back, while Barney furiously attacked his scalding cargo shorts with napkins.


Before it even began, the vacation was ruined.


Over the last five years, the Air Force has systematically replaced hundreds of pounds’ worth of paper publications and navigational charts in its aircraft with tablet-based Electronic Flight Bags. At first, pilots were given suction cup mounts, similar to Barney’s dashboard phone mount, to attach the EFBs to the cockpits’ windows. This worked … for a while. 


Over time, the heated windshield, combined with the suction pressure, would cause the cockpit glass to lose its shape, creating a curved surface that the suction cup mounts could no longer adhere to ...


Taxi over a bump on a Middle Eastern runway? WHACK!


Turbulence at 30,000 feet? BANG!


As the tablets fell, they landed on everything, from disposable coffee cups to oxygen and communication panels, destroying indiscriminately and causing an estimated $2 million in damage every year.


If pressed, every Airman could likely create a list of “pain points” they suffer in their day-to-day jobs – in other words: things that suck. It could be the hours a day your team spends inventorying thousands of tiny parts that collectively aren’t worth much more than a reflective belt. Maybe you spend your afternoons transferring data between two different spreadsheets or manually transcribing meetings because … Well, it’s always been done that way. Perhaps, your government-issued tablet keeps falling and breaking expensive things. Regardless of the problem, you suspect there’s a better way; BEDROCK – Dover’s SPARK hub – is here to help. 


Chartered in 2016, SPARK is an Air Force-level grassroots program created 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. It exists to inspire a culture of innovation and empower unit-level Airmen to swiftly advance development and implementation of solutions to warfighters’ needs.


In 2017, the SPARK initiative spearheaded Air Mobility Command’s implementation of a new mount for aircrews’ EFBs, integrating an existing aircraft part designed to hold paper charts with commercially available ball-and-socket hardware. This singular innovation potentially spares AMC millions of dollars a year.


In January, Dover launched its own SPARK hub with the creation of BEDROCK, Dover’s foundation for innovation. BEDROCK is an organic, bottom-up effort powered by volunteer Airmen – a motley crew of thinkers, tinkerers, hackers and nerds. Its mission is to expeditiously leverage technology and off-the-shelf industry solutions to fix the military’s problems and, when necessary, connect legacy programs like AFSO21, CPI and API with Airmen who couldn’t tell you what those acronyms mean.


You’re probably already beginning to see BEDROCK promoted around base. Throughout 2019 and beyond, we will seek your ideas. Unlike previous innovation campaigns, every problem has the opportunity to be addressed via the SPARK model, as long as the person presenting the idea is willing to pursue it (or find someone who can). It will be a lot of work, and there will be occasional failures … but there will also be impactful wins along the way. More importantly, BEDROCK will empower Dover Airmen to effect change. If you’re interested in joining the team, we are always looking for visionaries and reformers who want to improve the status quo. If not, there’s no pressure … We’ll get started without you.


“If in peacetime, we tell every Airman how to do everything, how can we possibly expect, in wartime, we will suddenly be able to take the initiative and prevail in highly contested combat?” – Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson


To submit your ideas or find more information, check out www.doverspark.org.


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#bedrock (or #bedrockde)