Pacific Air Forces' innovation lab ‘The Dojo’ now open

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Taylor A. Workman
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Pacific Air Forces added a new innovation lab to its roster Sept. 25, 2020 at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Wing leadership and members of the base attended a soft opening of the Dojo, which is the installation’s new hub for problem-solving. The lab is supported by YokoWERX, a spark cell inspired by the innovation model for the Air Force, AFWERX.

The YokoWERX team is composed of enlisted and officer Airmen, government civilians and a Japanese Air Self Defense Force member. They all volunteer their time and talents to establish the Dojo and maintain it as the first AFWERX lab in Japan.

“Yokota had a need for a dedicated space to collaboratively solve problems,” said Staff Sgt. Gerard Arceneaux, founder of YokoWERX and 374th Force Support Squadron manpower analyst. “We’ve created that space, filled it with top-of-the-line tools, and a team of technical and creative experts to help foster ideas.”

With goals to guide and mentor a community of over 12,000, the team has designed the collaborative space to be a one-stop-shop for accelerating change.

“Our function is to get homegrown ideas noticed, developed and instituted in a way that doesn’t get bogged down by the normal chain of command,” said Lt. Col. Tobby Evans, 374th Airlift Wing innovation officer. “The Dojo will be open to all base personnel who have a project that would benefit our community.”

The team has already put their gadgets and skillsets to use by 3D printing over 300 hand-extension tools, designed to keep hands away from high-touch surfaces like ATM key pads, elevator buttons and public door handles. These ‘COVID keys’ were the first step in marketing the capabilities of the Dojo while addressing the need for upholding public health protection measures on base.

“You don’t have to be a visionary and you don’t need technical expertise,” said Jacob Love, gaining YokoWERX team lead and 374th Contracting Squadron contracting specialist. “We want to provide opportunities for people with ideas to meet people with skillsets and bridge that connection to solve problems.”

According to Love, this pathway system is designed to be a collaborative and comfortable way to make effective and lasting change. Anyone is welcome to join and see how far Yokota, as a community, can go together.