New Air Force innovation hub in Las Vegas looks to future

Free food tugs at the psyche of just about every college student.

It’s what — along with class credit — compelled UNLV student Matt Viton to attend a networking social in November.

He didn’t know, however, that the chance meeting with AFWERX Vegas would lead to an exciting winter internship that would combine his love of mechanical engineering with his entrepreneurial spirit.

“When I saw this, I saw that it was something really new,” Viton said. “And when they told me they wanted an intern to sit in here and work with 3D printers all the time, I was like, that’s perfect.”

After a five-month internship, Viton is now the coordinator of the prototyping lab at AFWERX Vegas, an innovation hub for the Air Force that opened to the public Tuesday. AFWERX aims to connect people from industry, government, startup firms, academia and even garage tinkering to foster a culture of innovation.

It’s just one tool in the Air Force’s toolkit, according to Brian Maue, director of AFWERX.

“We recognize that we can no longer develop things with a five- or 10-year plan,” Maue said. “We need to be able to pivot quickly, in six to 18 months. We need to find the folks that are at the prototype level that we can turn around and make something happen for the war fighter quickly.”

Good timing

AFWERX Vegas debuted in January when Vice President Mike Pence visited Las Vegas for its grand opening.

That’s when Viton, a graduate of UNLV’s mechanical engineering program and its global entrepreneurship program, began his internship and was quickly given several responsibilities because of the small staff.

“The timing of it worked out really well,” he said. “I started right as the transition team that was getting the office set up was leaving, so a lot more responsibility beyond the internship role fell on my shoulders.”

Purchasing equipment, such as computer-controlled cutting machines and 3D printers, has been one of his top responsibilities.

That “has been really fun because it’s basically just a bunch of online shopping for things I could never afford,” he said as he showed off the pieces before a public tour of the 10,000-square-foot lab Tuesday night.

“We are going to be assisting teams of people, whether they’re in the military or outside the military, to kind of flesh out ideas and develop prototypes of things, to help the military develop things faster and find solutions outside of the traditional acquisitions route,” Viton said.

In the center of the room are large tables that serve as a work space for collaborating, up to eight teams at time. In one corner, a massive tool storage chest sits, and it’s mostly empty, Viton said.

“We’re still working on acquiring the tools we need,” he said.

Game changer

One of the pieces he’s purchased, a metallic 3D printer, should be delivered by August and will be housed at UNLV, for use by both AFWERX and university students and faculty.

“It’s basically the first of its kind because other metal 3D printers use a very different metal of printing,” he said, adding that it’s usually easier to prototype a part in metal instead of plastic.

The printer also will give Viton the chance to make an impact at UNLV, where he’s now studying to earn a master’s degree in business administration. He’s working with Brendan O’Toole, chairman of the mechanical engineering department at UNLV, to develop coursework around the new printer.

To work with 3D printers now, students take a one-credit elective course, which can fill up fast, Viton said.

“Additive manufacturing has been growing so much that we are renovating a lab and consolidating multiple types of additive manufacturing equipment into this lab,” O’Toole said. “It’s really a game changer in the manufacturing world. Additive manufacturing brings manufacturing to the individual.”

On the low end, a 3D printer costs less than $500, and additive manufacturing is becoming a mainstream process for engineering, O’Toole said.

At AFWERX Vegas, teams are working on building a 3D-printed cockpit of a plane for the AFWERX Austin branch, Viton said.

“It’s kind of the wave of now,” he said.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like