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Making virtual reality a reality

Chief Master Sgt. Darryl Guppy, 647th Civil Engineer Squadron chief enlisted manager, tests a virtual reality version of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense training created by Aloha Spark, the 15th Wing’s innovation unit, during a hackathon at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, April 16, 2021. Aloha Spark hosted a hackathon to test the ability of Airmen to create a VR training version of CBRNE in only four days. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson)

Chief Master Sgt. Darryl Guppy, 647th Civil Engineer Squadron chief enlisted manager, tests a virtual reality version of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense training created by Aloha Spark, the 15th Wing’s innovation unit, during a hackathon at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, April 16, 2021. Aloha Spark hosted a hackathon to test the ability of Airmen to create a VR training version of CBRNE in only four days. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --

Aloha Spark, the 15th Wing’s Innovation Office, created a virtual reality lesson cutting down the time it takes to complete an annual Air Force training from four hours down to one. 

The hackathon brought together Airmen from across JBPHH to create a VR training program for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense training in three days. 

“Hackathon was designed to simulate a real-world scenario where you would have a few subject matter experts and people who are not SMEs or work together and create a training lesson in about four days,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Poole, 15th WG Innovation project management director.

Airmen were empowered to control their group’s assigned portion of CBRNE and had 24-hour access to the Aloha Spark innovation lab to shoot, edit, and test their VR training. 

“The Airmen didn’t know that they were going to be focusing on CBRNE, or anything about GoPro 360 equipment, VR, or video editing,” said Poole. 

Not only did the CBRNE instructors ensure all training requirements were met in the VR simulation, but they also conducted an in-person CBRNE course that Airmen recorded on a GoPro 360 camera. 

On the final day of the hackathon, Airmen from the First Term Airman Course tested out the VR training, and the Aloha Spark teams presented to wing leadership.

“I am not into video games at all, therefore, I thought it would be a little difficult for me,” said Airman 1st Class Yurabai Morales, 8th Intelligence Squadron fusion analyst. “The virtual reality version of CBRNE was much more interesting and fun.”

The Aloha Spark team plans to test additional VR programs to replace and supplement current trainings, such as Self-Aid Buddy Care. 

“The Air Force has to change the way we look at technology,” said Poole. “The most dangerous thing we can say is ‘this is just the way we’ve always done it.’ 

“If you say that you will lose.”