A team of New York Tech students and faculty is working to launch dormant NASA patents in the commercial market.
Six students and a graduate student are building prototypes for four patents under an initial contract with the space agency, which runs through August, said Michael Nizich, director of the Entrepreneurship & Technology Innovation Center, New York Tech business incubator that runs the project.
“They have 1,800 to 2,000 patents for which they do not have prototypes,” said Nizich, who hand-picked students for the project. “It was a match made in heaven.”
Part of the student body was drawn from the College of Engineering & Computer Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology. Others are digital art students from the School of Architecture & Design, skilled in producing demonstration videos of the products.
Nizich said NASA patents are sometimes swept aside when scientists run to complete large-scale projects, leaving a rich vein of ideas with commercial potential.
After consulting with NASA, the ETIC team on the Old Westbury campus won a list of patents for the initial contract for four:
- A portable robotic exoskeleton jacket that can help victims of stroke or traumatic brain injury move their shoulders and elbows. Technology can also find its way into future spacesuits to increase human performance.
- A sensor-loaded film that could detect the trajectory and location of the impact of a projectile or other object. The technology can be used on satellites or in terrestrial applications to detect ammunition, burglary or vehicle collisions.
- A C-shaped metal unit that can monitor the voltage on everything from a parachute lines to the cable on a suspension bridge and transmit this data.
- A system that uses characteristic electrical patterns of the human heart muscle monitored at multiple points on the limbs to confirm identity. The algorithm can be used in law enforcement, financial transactions and other applications.
Babak Beheshti, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences, said New York Tech could reap benefits beyond the basic contract with NASA.
“If during the process of developing prototypes we come up with our own algorithm, we own it,” he said. “We can develop a whole lot of IP [intellectual property] objects. “
The halo of NASA’s brand also gives credibility to the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences and New York Tech in general, he said.
ETIC was funded in 2016 by the NYSTAR Science and Technology Program of New York’s Empire State Development.
In 2019, Empire State Development asked Nizich to help a Long Island startup in need of prototype services. ETIC created a prototype device and software for startup, Wyandanch-based Grub Guard Inc.
The prototype, designed to detect the manipulation of a restaurant delivery order, caught the attention of NASA’s commercialization team, which was affiliated with New York Tech, leading to the ETIC contract, Nizich said.
ETICs NASA contract could ultimately lead to job creation, as companies on Long Island or elsewhere see potential in commercializing the patents, he said.
“We chose products that are achievable.”
NASA inventions now in common use:
- Dustbusters: Created when NASA called on Black & Decker to build a small device to collect samples on the Moon.
- Brilliant barrier insulation: Used in homes.
- Memory foam: Bedding material first developed to make the pilot seats more comfortable.
- Freeze-dried food: Nutritious, but a fraction of the weight.
- MRI and CT scans: Digital signal processing, used in the Apollo lunar landings, was adapted for medical imaging;
- Scratch-resistant lenses: Research into astronauts’ visors led to the spectacle coatings.