Not all heroes wear capes. In fact, some don’t even have muscle definition, pants, or three dimensions. One such hero is Sticky McStickface, the new two-dimensional mascot for a group dedicated to making life easier and more efficient at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
“Sticky is the people’s champion,” said Chase Kohler, spokesperson for the 412th Test Wing, the host unit at Edwards. Kohler clarified that Sticky’s pronoun is they, “as a representation for everyone.”
“They embody the innovative spirit that lives within all of us here at the center of the aerospace testing universe,” Kohler said.
Edwards Air Force Base has a long history of testing out America’s cutting-edge combat aircraft and capabilities. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager became the first human to fly at supersonic speed here in 1947, and the F-117 Nighthawk, the first operational aircraft designed around stealth, first took flight at an Edwards-administered airfield in 1981.
But even the so-called “center of the aerospace testing universe” can think of new ways of doing things, which is why the 412th Test Wing has an “innovation ecosystem” called SparkED. SparkED is meant to help airmen develop and spin up new ideas for anything from making life easier on base to helping America fight future wars. Past SparkED ideas include an electric scooter share program on base; a coding and robotics training course; and a tablet for F-35 fighter pilots to better integrate new technologies into their jet. The SparkED team at Edwards is one of many Spark Cells across the Air Force, which wants to encourage grassroots-level innovation as the service prepares for a possible war with China.
“[W]e must transform our culture to one that values innovation, collaboration and accountability,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said at a major Air Force conference in September. “We must move with a sense of urgency today in order to rise to the challenges of tomorrow. Because the return to strategic competition is our nation’s greatest challenge.”
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Not to worry general, Sticky McStickface is on the case. Kohler explained that SparkED needed a new mascot, so base staff put out a call for community members to submit their ideas. Twenty candidates emerged, including one idea submitted by a 10-year-old active-duty dependent. The list included Axel the Eagle, Karl the Creative Kraken, Connor the Contrail, Nic the Sonic Boom, Eddie the Lightbulb and Captain Rob, a fox in pilot’s garb, which is a play on the 1973 Robin Hood cartoon starring the eponymous fox.
But after 3,252 votes, Sticky emerged victorious, and the 412th Test Wing honored the people’s choice. News of Sticky’s victory was first shared on the popular Facebook group Air Force amn/nco/snco. The title is in keeping with a naming convention that became popular in 2016, when the Natural Environment Research Council, a British government agency, let the internet decide the name of its $287 million polar research. The winner was “Boaty McBoatface,” though the ship was eventually named the RRS Sir David Attenborough and the internet’s choice was given to one of its submersibles. SparkED will not perform the same trickery.
“We know that Sticky was intended as a joke at first, but we embraced the humorous nature in sharp contrast to the typical policies, procedures, and red tape that are often experienced,” Kohler said.
Sticky may not have much meat on their bones, but, like pre-transformation Steve Rogers in Captain America, that absence is actually their greatest strength.
“In all honesty, I do believe Sticky McStickface embodies innovation at the 412th Test Wing,” said Sticky’s creator, an Air Force civilian named Daniel L. Stevenson Jr. who is the director of the 775th Test Squadron. “They can represent anyone, they’re awkward, they’re silly, they’re smart, there isn’t a lot of meat on their bones, but they have promise. They have the entire 412th Test Wing standing behind them, waiting for whatever comes next.”
Sticky’s predessecor, Eddie the Dragon, recently moved as part of a permanent change of station. It looks like Sticky has their work cut out for them. SparkED is running a base-wide innovation campaign where select Edwards members can pitch their ideas before a panel of experts as if they were on the TV show “Shark Tank.” SparkED is looking for ideas that change the culture at Edwards; improve or maintain quality of life; remove inefficiencies in the workplace; test new capabilities; or help fight “near-peer” adversaries like China. Some of those problems are pretty sticky, as SparkED pointed out in its announcement of Sticky’s victory. Luckily they have the right mascot for the job,
“This entire campaign was created to engage our base population,” said Britney Reed, chief innovation officer at the 412th Test Wing. “Now that we have our mascot, the real work begins. We want to solve both common and new problems airmen face. Our policy is we care about the Airman as much as the idea … Sticky and innovation are examples of agility and resilience, just like our people … We are just getting started!”
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