Accelerating change at JBA’s SparkX Cell

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Austin Pate
  • 316th Wing Public Affairs

The SparkX Cell Innovation and Idea Center has been using creative ways to enhance the skills of Airmen and improve units on Joint Base Andrews by allowing personnel to chase after innovative solutions since January 25, 2019.

Initially, Airmen who worked at the center were introduced to technology, ranging from 3-D modeling to 3-D printing. These Airmen had to learn quickly in order to assist Airmen who wanted to use all the tools SparkX had to offer.

“The way it used to be was to sit down, hash out, plan, and work everything out as much as we could physically, right then and there," said Master Sgt. Earl Bagwell, SparkX Cell senior enlisted leader. “The goal now is to have a way forward or a minimum valuable product before you leave.”

The team's main focus has been customer service. If someone comes in for help with an idea, the SparkX Cell personnel will work with them to achieve his or her goal. That collaboration gets an Airman's idea and product out for the benefit of the Air Force community.

The collaboration includes other Spark Cells in the Air Force. Since the Travis Phoenix Spark opened in California in 2016, the Spark Cell network has grown to 90 centers around the world. They work together, receiving feedback from each other. JBA’s SparkX Cell staff members have collaborated with other Spark Cell teams along the East Coast.

Several different projects that started at JBA’s SparkX Cell have already saved the Air Force time and money. Two innovations that were modeled and printed, the Rajski Wrench and antenna mounts for the 1st Helicopter Squadron, have saved approximately 544 man hours, translating to more than $100,000 saved.

“We care about and prioritize innovation in our spaces,” said Bagwell. “I don't care what it is. If it helps you, if it saves you time or money, even if it helps just one unit, small things for us matter.”

“I can get after it if it’s improving your quality of life,” Bagwell continued. “Your quality of life boosts your mental health, your mental health boosts a great job performance, and great job performance boosts mission effectiveness.”

Projects at SparkX Cell have ranged from custom-fit face masks produced from facial scans to printing drone bodies. Along with their 3-D printers and scanners, the Innovation and Idea Center at Joint Base Andrews offers many features such as Smart Boards, Virtual Reality headsets, and a space for collaboration and modernization.

According to Kristofer Zimmerman, 316th Wing community planning liaison, the staff’s goal is to keep pace with ever-changing advancements until Airmen get to a point where they are the leaders in cutting-edge technology. SparkX Cell would like to be a one-stop shop and continue to expand as much as possible.

“I see the 90 plus Spark Cells, including ours, as being the drivers for change,” said Zimmerman. “We want to make the lives of Airmen better, as well as Air Force missions more successful and more efficient.”

The SparkX Cell initiative encourages Airmen at JBA to embody Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.’s action order to “Accelerate Change or Lose” by using this facility to bring their ideas and visions to fruition.

The SparkX Cell is located off Concord Ave next to the base library and can be contacted at 301-981-4817 or

This article is part of a series featuring how Joint Base Andrews’ SparkX Cell is cultivating innovation across the installation and Air Force.

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