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Fort Bragg’s reality show-like idea contest aims to go national

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Christian Lance Relleve
Photo courtesy 18th Airborne Corps.
One of Dragon’s Lair 6 winners, U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Christian Lance Relleve, an Army Reserve Officer assigned to the California based 453rd Chemical Battalion, pitches his idea: using artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict interior floor-plans based on a building’s external architecture — vital information for troops who may need to fight their way through a building.

A Fort Bragg initiative that brainstorms solutions for tough military problems may go on tour in 2022.

Leaders of the 18th Airborne Corps have staged what they call “Dragon’s Lair” six times in the past year. It’s modeled on the hit ABC show “Shark Tank,” with troops pitching ideas to a panel of senior leaders and outside experts on everything from a cooling system for body armor, to fighting sexual assault and suicide.

It has received increasing media attention — and support from the rest of the military. The most recent episode expanded to allow pitches from members of all branches of service, not just the Army.

Now the 18th Corps is exploring the idea of taking it on the road.

Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps, said it could make stops at innovation hubs like Stanford University, Silicon Valley, New York and the Boston area, where it would showcase troops’ ideas in front of potential private sector partners.

Each stop would draw panelists from the local pool of expertise — experts who could then potentially help the military with research and development.

“I think it increases the visibility of it, it potentially opens it up to new partnerships,” Buccino said. “Potentially, there's new partnerships in terms of full implementation.

There have been six episodes in the past year. Buccino says Dragon’s Lair can keep generating ideas, but many of those that require more than, say, changing a policy, his unit will need outside help.

Jay Price has specialized in covering the military for nearly a decade.
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