Cal Poly Pomona is joining forces with universities from across the country in an innovative high-tech collaboration: assessing the commercial potential of NASA Technologies.
The opportunity arises from a partnership of 15 universities with NASA. The T2U program gives Cal Poly Pomona students the chance to assess some of NASA’s newest technologies for their commercial applications.
“Aerospace is what NASA knows and this program enables them to tap into young minds that can think out of the box and come up with applications of technologies outside the aerospace context,” says Olukemi Sawyerr, director of the Student Innovation Idea Lab. “Students come up with creative applications that NASA inventors haven’t even thought of.”
So far, Cal Poly Pomona has worked on 16 projects with 28 students and four faculty participants. This year, there are three teams, made up of pairs of STEM and business students mentored by Winny Dong, director of projects and research for the College of Engineering; Erkan H. Ozkaya, professor of international business and marketing; and Sawyerr.
Last year, one of the applications the students uncovered had potential in the entertainment industry.
NASA designed a fiber optic cable that is thinner than hair along which multiple nodes can be placed for measurement. Designed to determine the strength of airplane wings, the students realized the wire could help animators produce better recordings of models.
After they complete each assessment, the students return to Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to present their findings, which include potential applications they have found, research they have completed and technology readiness level.
“It is exciting to watch Cal Poly Pomona students present in front of NASA scientists and field questions about their research and recommendations,” Sawyerr says. “The students are just fantastic, and NASA has been very pleased with the results.”
With the success of the first NASA collaboration, a second one will be launched under the oversight of the Student Innovation Idea Lab and with funding from nonprofit group Venture Well. The CPP NASA Licensing and Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (LEAP) will enable students to participate in the Startup NASA program.
CPP NASA LEAP is a new technology assessment and commercialization program that will enable student teams to experience the entire venture creation process, starting with the analysis of the technology and finishing with a prototype and venture creation plan. The new program will have its first teams starting work in the spring 2016 quarter.