MIGHTY SPORTS
Senior Airman Kristof J. Rixmann

Why these environmentally-friendly treadmills are important for airmen

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristof J. Rixmann)

In 2019, the 786th Airlift Wing Force Support Squadron purchased six environmentally-friendly treadmills for use in the north and southside fitness centers.

These treadmills don't require energy to function and as an individual runs on the treadmill, the machine actually transmits energy back into the power grid.

The utility of these six treadmills has made Master Sgt. Joseph McTaggart, noncommissioned officer in charge of Ramstein Air Base Southside Fitness Center, a candidate in the 2020 U.S. Air Forces in Europe's Spark Tank competition.

"We just wanted to solve some energy problems (on Ramstein AB), especially at the Northside Fitness Center," McTaggert said.


The Northside Fitness Center was constructed in 1952. The gym has two large open areas — the main one, which is now used to hold the majority of gym equipment, was once a basketball court. Apart from lighting, the basketball court required no energy costs. Today, much of the gym equipment found on the retired court requires an immense amount of power. In 1952, the fitness demands of today couldn't be foreseen and it's evident the Northside Fitness Center wasn't designed for this magnitude of energy consumption.

The control panel on one of the new environmentally friendly treadmills featured at the north and southside fitness centers tracks the energy the user generates which is transferred back into the power grid. These treadmills are a part of a vision led by Master Sgt. Joseph McTaggart, noncommissioned officer in charge of Ramstein Air Base Southside Fitness Center, who plans to make both fitness centers more environmentally friendly.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristof J. Rixmann)

"Think about the amount of money we're spending on our electric bill," McTaggart said. "We're at a point where everyone wants to be more energy efficient. This solution hits both points and it's really a win-win situation for us. We believe, in our experience, this would benefit the U.S. Air Force, in general — this is a no-brainer. We're producing electricity."

McTaggart went on to explain these treadmills provide more utility than saving the Air Force money. He said it's more than that.

"On top of that, the main thing big leadership is excited about is saving money," McTaggart said. "Let's talk about the young guys, though — let's talk about the airmen and why it's important for them. This is better than running on a traditional treadmill. The way the treadmill is designed, running on it is easier on your knees and your joints. Additionally, because you're generating the power for the treadmill, the resistance is also greater than a traditional treadmill so you're actually burning 30%. So, why is this important to airmen? You have a treadmill that is more effective with injury prevention that also allows airmen to perform better on their fitness assessments."

(Photo by gina lin)

So, what is the Spark Tank and how can intelligent minds with creative solutions for the U.S. Air Force get involved?

Spark Tank is an annual competition in which airmen pitch innovative ideas to top Air Force leadership and a panel of industry experts at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium. The Spark Tank competitors are active-duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard airmen and Air Force civilians.

Each year, thousands of attendees watch the innovation pitches to senior leaders. To support Spark Tank, AFWERX launched a crowd-sourcing platform called IdeaScale which allows airmen to share ideas, critique submissions and upvote the most promising solutions. The airmen with the most game changing and upvoted ideas then compete at the culminating event, Spark Tank.

The competition is designed to encourage entrepreneurship, retain innovators and speed adoption of emerging technologies, especially those developed by airmen that bring game changing impact to our force.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @ASAF on Twitter.