Spark Tank 2022: Plan to Save Water, Fuel Crowned Winner

Project Arcwater, a package of technologies aimed at helping Airmen live “off the grid” by generating their own power and water, was selected as the winner of the 2022 Spark Tank competition on March 4.

In the final event of the AFA Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., seven “celebrity” judges listened to pitches from six finalists presenting their ideas to improve the Air Force, in a competition modeled after the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”

Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman all served as judges, alongside guest judges Sharon Leite, CEO of the Vitamin Shoppe, and Rachel Kuhr Conn, CEO of Productable.

In the end, the winning pitch came from Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney, who touted the use of solar panels and a water harvester instead of diesel generators and prepackaged water to save money and space for Airmen operating in remote locations as part of the Agile Combat Employment model. 

“Imagine this: You’re on a mission with your team in the middle of nowhere. You have a tough job ahead and unfamiliar territory, but the space to take what you need is limited,” Kenney told the judges. “What do you cut? Fuel? Water? Tools? Teammates? Is your choice the right choice? … The most precious resource we have in mission-planning is pallet space. Pallet space determines what goes and what stays.”

Project Arcwater will take up 60 percent less space and be 78 percent lighter than the equipment currently used, Kenney claimed. It will also be 96 percent faster to set up and cost 98 percent less to operate for a standard mission.

Pressed by Towberman on how he would convince skeptics to place their trust in his system, Kenney said education will be key.

“We have this negative connotation when we think about ‘green.’ We go back to like 20 years ago, we think of a sub-version of what that is. That’s no longer the case. This technology is here. It’s available for us to solve these problems,” said Kenney. “And I think it’s educating that middle management, that leadership to say, ‘Hey, this is a viable option.’”

Kenney’s pitch earned the votes of Brown, Bass, and Towberman, while Jones, Raymond, and Kuhr Conn voted for “Custom Facemasks for Fighter Pilots and Beyond,” an idea from Maj. Ryan Sheridan of the 10th Air Base Wing to use technology commonly found in dentists’ offices to create silicone inserts for pilots’ oxygen masks.

With a tie, Air Force Chief Information Officer Lauren Barrett Knausenberger was called to take the stage and huddled briefly with the judges before declaring Project Arcwater the winner. Project Arcwater was also voted as the “fan favorite” of the competition in an online poll.

For more information on the six finalists in this year’s competition, read Air Force Magazine’s series highlighting each idea:

  • Maj. Giselle Rieschick, 99th Medical Support Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.: “Blood Delivery by UAV”
  • Maj. Ryan Sheridan, 10th Air Base Wing, U.S. Air Force Academy: “Custom Facemasks for Fighter Pilots and Beyond”
  • Matthew Correia, Air University’s Eaker Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.: “DAGGER: Developing Airmen and Guardians with Games for Enhanced Readiness.”
  • Maj. Allen Black, 412th Test Wing, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.: “Project FoX (Fighter Optimization Experiment)”
  • SMSgt. Brent Kenney and TSgt. Matthew Connelly, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, “Project Arcwater”
  • Cadet Grant Schlichting, U.S. Air Force Academy: “Aerial Tow Rehookup”