Digital design concept wins AFMC Spark Tank Integrated Capabilities Challenge

  • Published
  • By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
  • Air Force Materiel Command

A novel idea to revolutionize capability development through optimized digital engineering is the winner of the Air Force Materiel Command Spark Tank Integrated Capabilities challenge.

Douglas Szczublewski, Next Gen Capabilities Lead and aerospace engineer, Aerospace Systems Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, presented his team’s winning concept for Digital Effectiveness Based Design to a panel of leaders during the AFMC Senior Leader Conference, Oct. 19. It will now go on to receive support and funding for implementation in AFMC engineering processes.

“All of the ideas were great. There was no clear winner in our discussions—people were fighting for each one of the ideas!” said Richardson following presentations by the three AFMC competition semi-finalists. “I want to see the command follow-through on all three ideas. They all fall under a ‘let’s just do it’ construct.”

Digital Effectiveness Based Design combines air vehicle design and mission analysis into one digital ecosystem, ultimately accelerating data-based risk assessments to determine how design changes or new technologies may impact the ability to complete a mission. For instance, engineers would be able to determine the impacts of a thermal engine change on multiple aircraft structures at one time using digital models, with the resulting data helping to inform design decisions and investments more effectively.

The process infuses Model-Based Systems Engineering with Operational Analysis and Multi-Disciplinary Design Optimization (physics-based models) in an integrated digital environment. Ultimately, conducting operational analysis and system design in a parallel, networked, and integrated environment will result in an accelerated integrated capability development cycle, streamlining system development through a digital thread that evolves throughout the lifecycle of a system.

The Digital Effectiveness Based Design concept was one of 32 unique submissions to this year’s AFMC Spark Tank challenge which focused on innovations and new ideas directly aligned with the four lines of effort identified in the 2023 AFMC Strategic Plan. Sixteen of the submissions were pushed to the Department of the Air Force Spark Tank competition due to the potential for enterprise impact.

AFMC selected three semi-finalists for the in-house Spark Tank competition, all of whom presented concepts for senior leader consideration during the Oct. 19 event.

In addition to Szczublewski, members of the Digital Effectiveness Based Design team from the AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate included Ray Kolonay, Senior Scientist for Advanced Structures; Carolyn Aielli, Digital Engineering Lead; and Cale Zeune, Mission Engineering Lead.

The additional semi-finalist innovations were:

  • Acoustic Imager, presented by Donna Spry, Wing Process Manager, Arnold Engineering Development Complex ​
    • The Acoustic Imager provides a novel way for engineers to ‘see sound’ by measuring vibrations.  The new capability would allow personnel to find leaks and electrical partial discharge​, reducing personnel risks.
  • Team Awareness Kit (TAK) Authority to Operate, presented by Lt. Col. Trevyn Guglielmo, Emergency Service Branch Chief, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center
    • This proposal seeks funding to establish a Program Management Office to implement and manage an Air Tasking Order directing implementation of TAK enterprise-wide. TAK enables digital inputs supporting near real-time updates for Integrated Installation Command and Control.

“I’m very proud of our presenters who were willing to come up here and pitch their ideas. This is really how we promote a culture of innovation,” said Kim Norman, director, AFMC Commanders Accelerated Initiatives office.