TAMPA, Fla. — The eighth iteration of Dragon’s Lair was co-hosted by the U.S. Special Operations Command and the 18th Airborne Corps, which brought the finalists to the University of South Florida’s Research and Innovation Park in Tampa on Mar. 29, 2023.
During the competition, seven innovations that were developed by individuals and teams were presented in front of a panel of expert judges from government, industry, academia and investors. Each innovator had seven minutes to present the concept, scope and application of their ideas, which was followed by 12 minutes of questions generated by the judging panel.
After careful deliberation, the judges selected the Mold Conditions Awareness Tool, or MCAT, that was presented by U.S. Army 1st Lt. Chris Aliperti and Pvt. Salem Ezz from the 3rd Infantry Division, as the top innovation of Dragon’s Lair 8.
The MCAT is a specialized 3D-printed device that uses sensors to detect temperature and humidity levels within barracks rooms to identify early signs of mold. The data is ingested in real-time to an application through Wi-Fi that enhances military leaders and barracks managers’ visualization to assess the conditions and remediate through taking action.
“Dragon’s Lair was a great opportunity to present our ideas to leaders across the Department of Defense and the civilian sector,” Aliperti said. “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.”
Aliperti and Ezz expected the first problem they would address would focus on national security. “We did not expect to find the greatest threat to our Soldiers right now was within their own living areas,” said Aliperti.
The 18th Airborne Corps was fortunate to have Ms. Kathi Vidal, U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, as a judge. Her experience and resources will help the innovator service members find a pathway to patent their intellectual property.
“I thought all the ideas today were so phenomenal,” said Vidal. “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.”
Ezz spent months developing the MCAT, and now it is being beta tested in barracks on Fort Stewart.
“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.”
U.S. Army Gen. Bryan Fenton, commander of USSOCOM, presented Certificates of Achievement to the seven competing teams, thanking them all for their participation in Dragon’s Lair.
Canadian Army Brigadier General Pierre “Pete” Huet, the Assistant Commanding General of Operations, 18th Airborne Corps, directs modernization and innovation initiatives for the Corps.
“This was the best episode of Dragon’s Lair yet,” said Huet. “These innovators had their voices heard by industry and military leaders, and their concepts will make a real impact across the U.S. Department of Defense.”
With their selection, Aliperti and Ezz each were presented with the Meritorious Service Medal, they will be allowed to attend a military school of choice, and they will receive the support and resources from U.S. Special Operations Command and the 18th Airborne Corps to propel their idea’s implementation across the U.S. Department of Defense.