UWindsorENG student to help form startup using NASA technology

A team including a University of Windsor engineering student used NASA technology designed for Mars to become the only Canadian-based team to win part of the U.S. Space Race startup challenge.

Abhishek Chakrala, a 22-year-old electrical engineering masters student, was part of a seven-member team that won a $2,500 prize in one category by using a NASA invention to track weather. The team was named a finalist in another category where it pitched an idea to make electricity using a kite in remote locations.

The plan is to commercialize NASA technology and the 15 finalists or winners will now have the opportunity to compete for some of the $1.2 million available from angel investors to start their companies.

“Most of the people think if they’re having some technology from NASA they think it’s only used for space. But there are a lot of technologies in NASA that can be used by the people on the earth,” Chakrala said this week.

The Center for Advancing Innovation in Maryland held the contest with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to create businesses around 11 different NASA patents or inventions. 

Chakrala entered the competition on his own and was put on the University of Guelph/Stratodynamics team. Gary Pundsack, CEO/founder of Stratodynamics Aviation Inc. and University of Guelph graduate who does wind and solar business development, said without the contest it would be difficult to access NASA inventions.

Stratodynamics won in a category using NASA’s sensing and control technology for unmanned aerial vehicles or what are commonly called drones. The team is using the technology for weather monitoring using an unmanned glider. Unlike a weather balloon that usually is lost once the balloon breaks, the glider would go up with a weather balloon but could land at pre-programmed points and used again, Pundsack said. 

Read the full story at the windsorstar.com

Story by Sharon Hill, the Windsor Star. Published Nov. 17, 2016.