The 526th Intelligence Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada, recently hosted an Artificial Intelligence and Design Thinking seminar at AFWERX Vegas, which more than 100 Airmen, contractors, and Department of Defense employees attended.
AFWERX Vegas, a branch of DEFENSEWERX, is a facility that serves as an innovation hub and aims to provide technology solutions to benefit the Air Force.
Guest speaker Chief Master Sgt. Ian, superintendent of the 9th Intelligence Squadron at Beale AFB, California, introduced event attendees to the fundamentals of design thinking, artificial intelligence, and cutting-edge computer technology.
“I want to expose you to the way we do business in (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and empower you to be part of the conversation,” event coordinator Senior Master Sgt. Amy, superintendent of the 526th IS, told seminar participants. “Hopefully, as the concepts become less intimidating, they will stimulate a culture of curiosity within you that makes you want to learn more and dig deeper.”
Throughout the seminar, students learned how to take data from various domains, analyze it and turn it into decision quality information.
“We need to drive change,” Chief Master Sgt. Stefan Blazier, command chief of the 363rd ISR Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, said in a video message to the students. “Our adversaries are constantly developing technology to catch up. We need to adapt and weaponize data to wield answers.”
Ian illustrated the five steps of design thinking, empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test, with an exercise provided by the Institute of Design at Stanford University.
The exercise required each student to sketch their idea of the perfect wallet. Then, they talked with the student beside them to find out what they want in a wallet (empathize). Based on what they learned (define) through the discussion, they sketched ideas to meet their “customer’s” needs (ideate). Next, they presented the sketch to the customer before using provided materials to build a model of their wallet (prototype). Finally, they tested the design to check if it met the customer’s expectations.
The Air Force seeks to create a culture in which leaders take a similar approach to meeting the needs of Airmen, it noted in a press release.
“You have to ask yourself three questions before implementing an idea: ‘Can I build it?’ ‘Will anyone use it?’ and ‘Is there anything better already out there?’” Ian told attendees. “The real heart is going through the process – do we have a problem worth solving or a process that needs improving?”
Mark Rowland, AFWERX Vegas director, also discussed the structure and neutrality of the AFWERX networking hub and the resources it offers to Airmen and DoD employees.
“We work with startups, and we work with the Air Force,” Rowland said. “We speak different languages, but we both want the same things. You want solutions to your Air Force problems, and we want to build solutions to your problems.”