Meet the Top 10 Finalists in NASA’s iTech Cycle 3 Challenge

On December 14, 2017 NASA announced the discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light-years from Earth, “making our solar system tied for most number of planets around a single star,” according to NASA.

The newly-discovered Kepler-90i is a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days. This brings the number of confirmed exoplanets from Kepler to 2,341 and small habitable zones to 30. The planet was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope with the assistance of machine learning from Google. NASA, like many other organizations and startups, are using machine learning and artificial intelligence to uncover new solutions to global problems.

“In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets,” according to a NASA press release.

NASA is not only on the hunt for new planets, but for the latest innovation to help them accomplish their space travel missions, including the one to Mars in 2030s. The NASA iTech Challenge allows innovators from around the world to submit their ideas and products for a chance to work in tandem with some of the greatest minds at NASA.

NASA recently announced the NASA iTech Cycle 3 finalists who will be presenting their innovations at the NASA iTech Forum to representatives from NASA, federal agencies, space industries, investment communities, and more, on January 31 and February 1 at Canon USA.

“NASA iTech is an innovation incubator that brings together the right people to the right place and time, giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to present their technologies as a future commercial market product solution for both Earth and NASA,” said Kira Blackwell, program executive for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The entrepreneurs who participate in NASA iTech are required to address both terrestrial and extraterrestrial challenges, providing the opportunity for the government to easily become a future ’off the shelf’ consumer.”

The Finalists

BioVirtua (San Francisco, CA)

Innovation: BioVirtua: Humanizing telehealth in four dimensions.

Challenge Area: Augmented Reality Advancement

FGC Plasma Solutions (Argonne, Illinois)

Innovation: Novel fuel injectors to enable clean, compact propulsion.

Challenge Area: X-Factor Innovation

Germfalcon (Los Angeles, CA)

Innovation: Germicidal UVC emitting robot for commercial aircraft.

Challenge Area: Medical Breakthrough

H2 Energy Now (Boalsburg, Pennsylvania)

Innovation: New technology for H2 Generation from water in space by use of electromagnetic waves.

Challenge Area: X-Factor Innovation

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (Los Angeles, CA)

Innovation: Augmented voyage.

Challenge Area: Augmented Reality Advancement

iFirst Medical Technologies (Honolulu, HI)

Innovation: The iFirst Analyzer: Handheld laboratory-grade diagnostics platform for extreme environments.

Challenge Area: Medical Breakthrough

Million Concepts (Lemont, Pennsylvania)

Innovation: The Arisian Lens: A novel solution for low-cost, lightweight microscopy.

Challenge Area: Medical Breakthrough

New Frontier Aerospace (Livermore, California)

Innovation: Affordable, powered recovery for small launch vehicles.

Challenge Area: X-Factor Innovation

Rice Technology (Milwaukee, WI)

Innovation: Smart real-time multipurpose sensor – Dissolved and suspended solids, bacteria, phosphorus and viruses.

Challenge Area: X-Factor Innovation

Somatic Labs (Phoenix, AZ)

Innovation: Tactile interfaces for augmented reality to enhance communication.

Challenge Area: Augmented Reality Advancement

Read more about the NASA iTech Challenge

Video credit: NASA/Ames Research Center

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Written by:
Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.
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