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Wing1Werx Innovation Lab opens in contracting squadron on base

An Airmen holds joysticks and uses a virtual reality headset to test contacting software inside of the Innovation Lab.

Senior Airman Alexander Luttrell, 341st Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, tests drafting software with a virtual reality headset in the Wing1Werx Innovation Lab, Dec 15, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The overarching goal of the Innovation Lab is to improve the daily working lives of Airmen and to serve the mission by improving wing efficiency and lethality through innovative thinking.

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- A dedicated space for Airmen to focus on innovative ideas, dubbed, the Innovation Lab, has opened in the contracting building on Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The lab is a large conference room equipped with Wi-Fi enabled tablets and a virtual reality headset with drafting software. Airmen are able to turn their ideas into tangible solutions by researching and corresponding with Department of Defense organizations, academic sources and commercial partners.

The organization responsible for the opening of the Innovation Lab, Wing1Werx, serves as the hub for innovation activity on base. Their overarching goal is improving the daily working lives of Airmen and to serve the mission by improving wing efficiency and lethality.

Since its inception, Capt. Joseph S. Hap, 341st Missile Wing innovation lead, as well as the organization’s leadership team, have worked diligently to expand the opportunities for Airmen and firmly believe the addition of the lab is a big win.

“The Innovation Lab is for Airmen who recognize solvable issues or problems with processes in their workplace,” said Hap. “Anyone can participate in innovation, and this lab can be where the rubber meets the road.”

Wing1Werx was established in February 2020, as part of AFWERX, an Air Force and Department of Defense global initiative to foster a culture of innovation and to engage with new entrepreneurs in the Air Force ecosystem. The program is crucial to the intercontinental ballistic missile mission at Malmstrom, as evidenced by a previous idea pitched by two Airmen to develop a rappelling system used to enter missile launch facilities, an idea that won second place at a quarterly award competition. Another notable pitch, Air Force eSports, has already been implemented across the force.

“We want Airmen to start with an idea, flesh out that idea, do some brainstorming and see which method or means could be used to bring that idea to fruition,” said Hap.

The lab is housed in the 341st Contracting Squadron, Building 145, which is across the parking lot from the Grizzly Bend, and the hope is that it will become a permanent fixture on base.

“Your work-related problems and the subsequent solutions are the fuel for this program that we want to make available for years to come,” said Hap.

The next Spark Tank competition for innovative ideas is scheduled to take place the last week of February, and ideas can be submitted to Wing1Werx at 341MW.Wing1.WERX@us.af.mil. The latest winner of the quarterly competition was 2nd Lt. Henry Camp, 341st Missile Wing Contracting Squadron base commodities officer in charge, with his wing project management plan.
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