In its eighth iteration of a “Shark Tank” style innovation competition, the XVIII Airborne Corps teamed with U.S. Special Operations Command and added a patent expert as a judge to the competition since now soldiers may profit from their ideas.

The Dragon’s Lair competition, created by the XVIII Airborne Corps, out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in recent years to solicit creative solutions from soldiers and other service members that might fix technical problems troops face.

One of the early winners in 2020 was a simple attachment that could be fixed to a forklift trailer and allow the forklift to move items around a motor pool instead of using a Humvee.

Recent winners have grown a bit more technical.

This year’s winner featured a Mold Conditions Awareness Tool, presented by Army 1st Lt. Chris Aliperti and Pvt. Salem Ezz with the 3rd Infantry Division. And that’s good because a recent report found mold in more than 2,000 Army facilities after a service-wide inspection.

The device is “a specialized 3D-printed device that uses sensors to detect temperature and humidity levels within barracks rooms to identify early signs of mold,” according to an Army release.

The data is then used in real time through a Wi-Fi connection so that leaders in other locations can visualize and assess conditions remotely.

“Dragon’s Lair was a great opportunity to present our ideas to leaders across the Department of Defense and the civilian sector,” Aliperti said in the release. “It is not every day you get to present your ideas on improving the Army to a three and four-star general, so it was a great honor to be selected.”

The device is currently in beta test mode, being used to assess barracks at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

“It feels great to be recognized for our technical skills in software engineering and product management,” said Ezz. “This tool has been months in the making and it feels great that the hard work has been recognized by the Department of Defense.”

And this pair of soldiers, along with other competitors, now benefit from feedback from the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Kathi Vidal served as a judge on the Dragon’s Lair panel during the March 29 competition.

“I thought all the ideas today were so phenomenal,” Vidal said in the release. “We saw these innovators really put their boots on the ground to see their projects through and create concrete solutions for real problems the Army currently faces.”

Another benefit for the winners is that each of them will receive a Meritorious Service Medal and a seat at the military school of their choice.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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