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Tech. Sgt. Raymond Zgoda, left, a civil engineer with the 374th Airlift Wing; Master Sgt. Sarah Hubert, center, the wing's superintendent of religious affairs; and Lt. Col. Mark Wagner, commander of the 374th Contracting Squadron, pose with their Spark Tank award at Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 15, 2023.

Tech. Sgt. Raymond Zgoda, left, a civil engineer with the 374th Airlift Wing; Master Sgt. Sarah Hubert, center, the wing's superintendent of religious affairs; and Lt. Col. Mark Wagner, commander of the 374th Contracting Squadron, pose with their Spark Tank award at Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 15, 2023. (Jeremy Stillwagner/Stars and Stripes)

There’s still time to submit your innovative ideas for the Air Force’s seventh annual Spark Tank competition.

Airman, guardians and civilians throughout the Department of the Air Force have until Sept. 4 to submit ideas through the online Guardians and Airmen Innovation Network (GAIN) platform. Instructions to create an account with GAIN can be found here.

Much like its namesake TV show “Shark Tank,” in which contestants seeking investment funding pitch ideas to celebrity entrepreneurs, Spark Tank gives service members the opportunity to pitch their inventions and solutions to tricky problems before a panel of top leadership and industry experts in pursuit of sponsorship. The competition is co-produced by the DAF’s Performance Management and Innovation office in the Pentagon and AFWERX Spark.

This year, competitors will be paired with an assigned consultant to help strengthen their submissions through five refinement steps, an Air Force news release said.

“Spark Tank provides a public-facing platform to showcase innovative ideas across the DAF,” Aaron Beebe, AFWERX Spark Tank project manager, said. “These are real problems experienced daily by those trying to do their jobs and accomplish the mission. We ask them to help us solve them through a more streamlined approach.”

The winning team in 2023’s competition developed underground mapping software that paired augmented reality technology with microwave scanning, Stars and Stripes reported. Lt. Col. Mark Wagner, Master Sgt. Sarah Hubert and Tech. Sgt. Raymond Zgoda made up the team from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and made their winning pitch March 8 during the Air and Space Forces Association 2023 Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colo.

Brian McElhiney is a digital editor and occasional reporter for Stars and Stripes. He has worked as a music reporter and editor for publications in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Oregon. One of his earliest journalistic inspirations came from reading Stars and Stripes as a kid growing up in Okinawa, Japan.

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