AFWERX 'Spark Street' takes over 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference

  • Published
  • By Matthew Clouse
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFRL) – AFWERX showcased the innovation from Spark Cells around the world at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Sept. 11-13. The aisle of four booth spaces at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center was called "Spark Street" where hundreds of attendees learned about ideas and projects from Airmen and Guardians that have improved and strengthened the Department of the Air Force.

“AFWERX invited Spark Cells to the conference to connect leadership and other Airmen with what's going on in the innovation space and how that can ignite ideas,” said Kathy Reid, AFWERX Spark branch chief. “There were times this week, when it was hard to walk through Spark Street because there were so many people visiting the booths. And you could hear the conversations, ‘my commander told me to come over here and take a look at this or have you heard about these ideas that they have?’ So the side conversations and the curiosity of our Airmen has been amazing.”

Spark Cells are a decentralized network of Airmen, Guardians and government civilians at Air Force bases around the world that execute locally generated ideas and projects to foster a results-driven culture of innovation.

Fifteen Spark Cells from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to name a few, attended the Air, Space and Cyber Conference to share their success stories. 

Tech. Sgt. Kristine Lopez, 48th Fighter Wing director of operations for the innovation office known as LibertyWERX, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, was a Spark Street exhibitor informing attendees on their laser foreign object debris detection system. The system uses high-speed cameras, custom optics and laser line projectors to acquire both 2D images and high-resolution 3D profiles of airport runways, taxiways and aprons in order to automatically detect small objects at highway speeds.

The detection system has saved the base money by reducing foreign object debris damage to aircraft and has eliminated thousands of manhours spent on FOD walks, allowing Airmen to focus on their primary mission.

“We partnered with a small business in New Zealand and it's one of a kind,” Lopez said. “A lot of Air Force bases and the Navy are interested in this technology. There’s definitely a need out there, we just need a program office to pick it up.”  She even got the chance to share her success story with the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. when he visited Spark Street on Sept. 12. 

I found out yesterday, so I was mentally preparing myself to not stumble,” Lopez added. “I really wanted to emphasize that we are trying to execute his action orders and also highlight some of our Airmen and the amazing ideas that they have.”  To learn more about Spark Cells, connect with the team or find your closest DAF Spark Cell, visit or email

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit

The innovation arm of the DAF and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory brings cutting edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF. Employs approximately 325 military, civilian and contractor personnel at six hubs and sites executing an annual $1.4B budget. Since 2019, has executed 4,671 contracts worth more than $2B to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit: