Category Archives: NASA

Space Apps 2014: It’s a Wrap!

Space Apps Go Beyond

The 2014 International Space Apps Challenge took place last weekend. Over 8000 humans in 95 locations around our planet joined together to leverage NASA data to solve global challenges. So many stories, so little time. Below is a collection of tweets that help characterize the international flavor and collective enthusiasm generated through NASA’s International Space Apps Challenges. Images tell the story better than words can.  I planned to only share five-ten images. Scroll down and you’ll see that I didn’t quite keep to that number.

Find yourselves in these images. I’ll bet you’re in one (or more) of them. 

Local hosts prepared for months to welcome participants: cool venues, name tags, goodies, tools, and hardware.

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Skopje

Space Apps Valencia

Space Apps Baltimore

Space Apps Certificates

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Sinaloa Cookies

Space Apps Toyko

Space Apps Nairobi

Space Apps fuel

Space Apps

We had Google hangouts and talks by space pioneers: astronaut Doug Wheelock from NYC, former astronaut Don Thomas in Baltimore, European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts Paolo Nespoli from Brazil and Luca Parmitano from Rome, and space tourist “astronaut” Mandla Maseko in Dakar, Senegal; Lome, Togo, and Pretoria, South Africa.

Space Apps Google hangout

Space Apps London

Space Apps Afronaut Talk

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps Rome

The participants formed teams around challenges in five mission priorities: asteroids, Earth watch, human spaceflight, robotics, and space technology. Teams created over 600 projects. The most popular challenges were: Where on Earth, Exomars Rover is My Robot, Asteroid Prospector, Space Wearables, Alert-Alert, Growing Food for A Martian Table, Cool It, and SpaceT

Space Apps Let Hacking Begin

Space Apps Bolivia

Space Apps Mexico City

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Porto Alegre, Brazil

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Bangalore

Space Apps Winnipeg

pace Apps Glasgow

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Brazil

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps London

Teams worked together to code software, build software, design mission profiles, and learn how to innovate in a collaborative environment. The solutions were creative, unique, and inspiring — all created in a compressed weekend of long days and short nights.

Space Apps Reno

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Paris

Space Apps Lome

Space Apps Chicago

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Cork

Space Apps Rover

Space Apps Kansas City: Yorbit app

Space Apps South Africa hardware

Space Apps Exeter

Space Apps Nigeria

Space Apps Toronto hardware

Space Apps Lego

And, my personal favorite….

Space Apps Bolivia

Some of the locations took some time to look up into the skies. And that’s what space is all about, after all. Looking beyond the horizon and wondering, what if….

Space Apps Pittsburgh

Space Apps London

Space Apps Cyprus

Space Apps London

Space Apps Bordeaux

Space Apps Chile

Teams have to pitch their projects to local judges on the final day. Two of the local winners can go forward from each location to global judging, as well as a People’s Choice nominee.

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Benin

Space Apps South Africa

Here are some of the winning teams.

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Goldcoast

At Space Apps Toronto, I had the privilege of serving as a judge. What an incredible experience.

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Who can resist a Judges Selfie???

Space Apps Toronto Judges Selfie

And, it’s a WRAP!

Space Apps Toronto: It's a Wrap

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Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps London

What overflows my heart is NASA’s boundLESSness – beyond borders and cultures. When NASA calls, global citizens, of all walks of life, answer. What an amazing thing to behold! I’m humbled by the opportunity and privilege to serve the public through programs like Space Apps.

Thank you ALL for an OUT-of-this-WORLD experience!!

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Filed under Africa, collaboration, Earth, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

Unplugged: Screaming Silence

Yesterday, I drove to work, only to realize I left my iPhone and iPad charging on the kitchen table. Once I arrived at work, I entered the “unplugged” void — isolation from humanity.

Hubble image of supernova.

Hubble image of supernova.

I logged on to my loaner laptop — my temporary replacement for the fried hard drive on my original laptop. The computer tech guys were coming soon to download email and docs onto the temporary laptop, so I hastily jotted down all my meeting times, call in numbers, and pass codes. I knew I was in trouble without my iPhone to remind me when meetings start and how to call-in.

Crazy Busy Calendar

The tech guys showed up and worked on my loaner laptop while I was on a call. They determined the laptop needed a bit more love, and asked if they could take it with them. I gave them the thumbs up — assuming I would get it back relatively quickly. Oh, the dashed hopes of the optimistically-inclined. Turns out, my loaner laptop had more issues than they anticipated. Looks like I’ll get it back Monday. That’s ok. I’m off work today (and I have access to my iPhone and iPad).

But, yesterday I didn’t! What a day to leave them at home. :\

I was forced to go old-school. My hand-scribbled notepaper calendar saved my day. But I was still flying blind. We’re so wired with our communications, that we generally log into a web-ex-ish meetings with a virtually-shared screen, OR we’re working off a document shared with everyone that we view on our own devices. Not me. I just listened and imagined what everyone was seeing. That’s ok. I have a vivid imagination.

My biggest issue: colleagues started calling me about urgent email they sent to me that I hadn’t acknowledged or responded to.

We’re in the day and age of never-ending data pile-on. Email artillery shoots back and forth in rapid fire, and decisions are made based on who responds first. Not responding or engaging is taken as tacit agreement, or indifference to the topic.

The silence was screaming at me — WHERE ARE YOU….WHY AREN’T YOU RESPONDING…DID YOU SEE THIS…SAY SOMETHING, WE’RE WAITING ON YOU…IF WE DON’T HEAR FROM YOU, WE’LL GO FORWARD!!!!!

"The Scream" by expressionist artist Edvard Munch

“The Scream” by expressionist artist Edvard Munch

As bewildering as the Screaming Silence of being unplugged, the cacophony of voices in email can be just as disorienting. As much as I hated the unplugged isolation yesterday, I find myself longing for a day when the silence might actually bring peace and tranquility. Ah, maybe that’s what retirement is all about. Nope, not ready for it…yet. ;)

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Filed under NASA, OpenNASA, technology

White House Climate Data Initiative

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Yesterday I had the privilege to take part in the White House Climate Data Initiative Launch event — which culminates months of collaboration with the White House, NASA, GSA, and other federal agencies to create the new climate.data.gov website. NASA is leading the curation of federal data sets and tools that will reside on the site for use by citizens, communities, municipalities, organizations, industry, and scientists and technologists to gather insights and make informed decisions about climate resilience. We’ve only just begun the collection of datasets and tools, but this site offers a data watering hole for users to engage and act. The site also features four climate-related International Space Apps Challenges that global solvers can gather together to address April 12-13 at nearly 100 locations around the globe.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Bina Venkataraman and Brian Forde of the White House organized the Climate Data Initiative events. I participated in one of the two workshops preceding the press event. Leaders from citizen organizations, city government, federal and state agencies, and data innovators shared cutting edge tools, and discussed climate-related challenges facing cities, business, and the public. Coastal hazards from sea-level rise is a rallying point to gather data-driven insights and tools to equip decision-makers — who come in many shapes and sizes, from home owners to business owners to city/state/federal leaders.

We heard from Denice Ross, Director of Enterprise Information at the City of New Orleans who discussed the challenge of brittle data supply chains and the pathological complexity of decision-making at the local level. Innovation is a far reach, but optimization is the more reasonable goal for local government. She called for mobile damage assessment tools that can operate in disconnect mode — not only for disaster environments, but for poverty-stricken areas where cell or wifi connections aren’t an option. Sara Wu, Climate Planning and Policy Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia, discussed their need for insights into extreme heat/precipitation to plan for at-risk communities, along with life cycle costs for real estate planning. Their city is working to create a one-stop climate data shop, but implementation of innovative data assessment tools may be more aspirational that realistic. Katherine Greig, Senior Policy Advisor for New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, discussed their need for hyper-local data — such as the depth of basements and height of ground level floors. They are looking for resilience in design standards and consistent planning models. Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Partnerships Advisor for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network in DC discussed the lack of data use in decision-making, and the need for concrete examples of creative use cases.

The workshop featured existing tools and data, including the new Google Earth Engine tool; ESRI, geo-spatial data and map-based resilience tools; InaSAFE, a plug-in open street map tool to simulate disaster effects, Microsoft’s FetchClimate tool, NOAA’s earth data, and more.

Microsoft's FetchClimate Tool

Microsoft’s FetchClimate Tool

Google Earth Engine

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Thanks Second Muse for designing the workshop. You guys are awesome, as always!! Now the real work begins. We need to figure out how to set free all available data and tools (and create new ones) to equip our decision-makers to make decisions for the future — in the face of certain uncertainty.

White House Climate Data Initiative

Here’s what we have at stake: our very own blue marble. The only human-friendly planet we’ve found…so far.

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

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Filed under data, environment, federal government, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

St. Paddy’s Day: Green Space!

Even though the DC region is covered in white, here are a few “green” space images to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!

Space Station Expedition 37: French Polynesia

Space Station Expedition 37: French Polynesia

Earth's surface from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Credit: NASA/Robert Schwarz

Earth’s surface from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Credit: NASA/Robert Schwarz

Space Station Expedition 34: Northern Lights

Space Station Expedition 34: Northern Lights

Space Station Expedition 37: Aurora Australis

Space Station Expedition 37: Aurora Australis

Expedition 38: Night view inside Space Station

Expedition 38: Night view inside Space Station

Hubble image of supernova.

Hubble image of supernova

Hubble Reveals the Ring Nebula's True Shape

Hubble Reveals the Ring Nebula’s True Shape

Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star

Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star

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Filed under Earth, International Space Station, NASA, space

Thoughts on Collaborative Innovation

Here are the charts I presented at the American Leaders 2014 Open Innovation Conference in Baltimore.

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Filed under collaboration, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

Space Station: Wonder ABOVE World

December 6, 1998 — fifteen years ago — humanity started construction on our human outpost, the International Space Station. Fifteen countries put aside cultural and political differences to join forces to create humanity’s greatest engineering feat. We built each section of Station in orbit. Pretty amazing, don’t you think? And when we plugged everything in (so to speak), it worked! Not at all like my experience with stringing Christmas lights.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary, here are a few pics of Station through the years — from infancy to maturity. Enjoy.

Space Station 2011

Space Station 2011

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010 (Shadow of Space Shuttle Endeavour)

Space Station 2010 (Shadow of Space Shuttle Endeavour)

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2009 (Can you find Endeavour's shadow?)

Space Station 2009 (Can you find Endeavour’s shadow?)

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007. Can you see Endeavour’s shadow?

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2006

Space Station 2006

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Space Station 2005

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Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

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Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

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Space Station 2000

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Space Station 1998

Space Station 1998

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Space Apps Winners @ MAVEN Launch

The prize for the winning International Space Apps team: MAVEN launch from Cape Canaveral tomorrow, weather permitting.

L-1 MAVEN launch

Here’s a quick update about the six winning apps, which represent wide ranging solutions to challenges on Earth and in space.

The Best Mission Concept, Popeye on Mars, offers a reusable greenhouse for Mars, comprised of a fully equipped aeroponic system to grow spinach over a 45-day mission.
SpaceApps13BestMissionConceptPopeyeonMars

The winner of the Best Use of Hardware, ISS Base Station, created a mechanical arm that points to Space Station in the sky as the vehicle and crew pass overhead.

SpaceApps13BestUseHardwareISSBaseStation1

SpaceApps13BestUseHardwareISSBaseStation

The winner of the Best Use of Data, Sol, created the first-ever interplanetary weather app to provide users information about weather on Earth and Mars.

SpaceApps2013BestUseOfDataSol

The Most Inspiring App, T-10, saves time for astronauts by using the location of Station and real-time weather data to alert astronauts when conditions are good to snap photos of designated locations on Earth. Astronauts can indicate when they will look out the cupola down on Earth so T-10 app users can wave back at the crew. The T-10 Apps team received “Astro-monials” from Station crew about the need for T-10 on Space Station.

SpaceApps13MostInspiringT-10

SpaceApps13MostInspiringT-10Hadfield

The Galactic Impact award winner, NASA Greener Cities Project, crowdsources microclimate data through low-cost sensors, network connectivity, and urban gardens to aggregate atmospheric measurements across cities. The data is displayed in real-time for officials to monitor air quality in communities and provide researchers insight into global climate.

SpaceApps13GalacticImpactGreenerCity

The People’s Choice award went to ChicksBook which provides how-to info on raising chickens and managing a backyard farm.

SpaceApps13PeoplesChoiceChicksBook
SSpaceApps13PeoplesChoiceChicksBook1

I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to meet the teams and hear the stories of what inspired them to create their space apps. We’re in the planning stages for the 2014 International Space Apps Challenge. Keep an eye on the website for more details.

Here’s hoping tomorrow’s MAVEN launch goes as scheduled. The forecast is 60% change of favorable weather.

Mars or BUST!!

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Filed under International Space Apps, NASA

Hope of Public Good…Beyond Furlough

Furlough: noun  • leave of absence granted to a member of the armed services or civil servant  • a temporary release of a convict from prison • a layoff, esp. a temporary one, from a place of employment.

Public Good: noun   • a commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization.

As a civil servant on directed furlough while Congress deliberates on our agency budgets and the debt limit, I find the conversation around the worthiness of federal employees quite disconcerting. I’ve spent most my career as a civil servant in the federal government. I firmly believe my job is to serve the public and bring about the public good by being available and accessible, creating processes and products that allow engagement, participation, and inclusion; and leveraging the scarce tax dollars as creatively and efficiently as possible.

Do I see waste in the government? Absolutely. Do I see opportunities and possibilities for innovative practices in the government? You bet. That’s why I’m still wearing my NASA badge.  [Ok, it's hanging by the door at this moment, but you know what I mean....]

As part of my PhD research, I ran across an article about inclusive public management and the promotion of democratic engagement. The authors distinguish between participatory and inclusive practices by government officials. Participatory programs enable individuals to engage in a discussion or activity, where inclusive practices allow participants to help define problems, deliberate on issues, and develop outcomes (Feldman, Khademian, Quick 2009). As a political scientist, I believe our government exists for the “people.” As  guardians of the public good, we best serve by opening up our decision-making processes (inclusively) to develop solutions collaboratively with creative thinkers, both inside and outside the government. Think: LAUNCH.org.

LAUNCH Impact Study

LAUNCH Impact Study

The article also introduces the concept of hope as a  means of collaboration and problem-solving within the public sector. As a public servant, I see this as my job — offering hope for a better tomorrow. It’s my passion language, actually.

Government Goddess ScepterIn my imagination, my super power might be…ta da…Government Goddess. [Much better than Government Girl, don't you think?] Cool if my tool belt armed me with a  Scepter of Inspiration to anoint humanity with hope and vision and strength of character to make tough [and often unpopular] decisions AND the desire to help those who can’t help themselves.

Tall order, I know. Sadly, I don’t own a cape or scepter, but we have amazing opportunities at NASA to make choices each day to serve the public while allowing external folks to create the public good with us — in whatever form it may take.

So, let’s get on with the business of offering hope through innovative government programs. I’m ready. I’ll start…the day after our mandated furlough ends. Deal? ;)

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson

Source: Feldman, Martha S., Anne M. Khademian, Kathryn S. Quick. “Ways of Knowing, Inclusive Management, and Promoting Democratic Engagement: Introduction to the Special Issue.” International Public Management Journal 12, no. 2 (2009): 123-36.

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Filed under federal government, LAUNCH, NASA

LAUNCHing Materials System Innovators from JPL

Congrats Top 10 Innovators

This week, the LAUNCH team convenes in Pasadena to celebrate ten LAUNCH 2o13 Systems innovators. The LAUNCH forum will be held Friday and Saturday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You’ll be able to watch the presentation via Ustream and participate in the conversation via MindMapr. Details will be on the LAUNCH website.

In 2013, the LAUNCH team adopted a long-term focus, called LAUNCH 2020, to seek and support innovations that positively influence the materials system. Innovations can take the form of early-stage technologies and prototypes; manufacturing processes; waste production methods; data, decision-support tools, and open technology platforms; business models; financial tools; and programs that accelerate research, education, and capacity building. This year’s challenge is the first step toward transforming the materials system, with a focus on fabrics.

The final ten innovators have the potential to shape the future of sustainable materials and low-impact making. Each demonstrated an understanding and commitment to positive social and environmental impact; and, together, represent a range of solutions that seek to revolutionize the treatment and production of fabrics and textiles on a large scale while reducing negative environmental impacts on Earth. Some of the innovators offer sustainable business models that benefit low-income communities, as well as education campaigns to create awareness and change behavior patterns to reduce harmful consumption of planetary resources.

Mark Browne: Benign By Design

Benign By Design’s unique data-driven process propels the textile industry toward cost effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers.  “Our program will lead to cost-effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers via novel research on how fabrics compare throughout their life cycle.” – Dr. Mark Anthony Browne, National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara

Rana Gupta: Geckskin

Geckskin is a device that can attach and release effortlessly, repeatedly and quietly without affecting either surface. “Our innovation is a new approach to attach and release. Geckskin uses neither classic pressure sensitive adhesive (scotch tape) forces, nor the mechanical properties of a zipper or nail. Geckskin will create new industries of products that we have not envisioned because we have been stuck in a singular-use attach paradigm for decades.” – Rana Gupta, CEO of Felsuma LLC

Sam Harrington: Mushroom Materials

Ecovative works with nature to replace plastics, foams, and other harmful materials with a new high performance, mycelium-based biomaterial platform technology. “These 3-D Myco Fabrics can be composted at the end of their useful life. Unlike many biopolymers such as PLA, these biomaterials can be composted in low temperature home compost piles, and they will break down naturally. Rather than becoming a burden on communities at the end of their useful life, Ecovative’s Mushroom Materials add nutrients to the soil.” – Sam Harrington, Ecovative

Oliver Heintz: Barktex Bark Cloth

BARKTEX® is a contemporary take on traditional bark cloth, which is produced in a sustainable way from the Ugandan Ficus tree. “Bark Cloth is an agroforest-based tree bark fleece from Uganda and said to be the most ancient textile of mankind… Designers value its expressive character, unique texture, inimitable structure and sensual tactility.” – Mary Barongo-Heintz, Co-founder of Barktex

Suzanne Lee: Biocouture

Biocouture is building an open source ‘bioneer’ community of material innovators to catalyze an explosion of product development in this area. There is increasing demand for compostable materials that can be produced with minimal raw materials and toxins. “Microbial cellulose is a fascinating material. From one hugely efficient, single production method, at least three direct products can be obtained: a health drink, a foodstuff and potentially a ‘vegetable’ material. In a process that takes about ten days, the material can be harvested by simply lifting it off the liquid.” – Suzanne Lee, Founder of Biocouture

Jay Nalbach: CRAiLAR

CRAiLAR’s processing technology efficiently creates a high quality natural flax fiber which is nearly indistinguishable from cotton. “CRAiLAR efficiently creates a high-quality natural fiber from flax with its proprietary processing technology. The resulting fiber, CRAiLAR Flax Fiber, is the functional equivalent of cotton in cotton-CRAiLAR blends. The results are clear: compared to cotton, CRAiLAR Flax Fiber is superior in all impact categories considered.” – Jay Nalbach, CMO of CRAiLAR

Felix Puller: Qmilk

Qmilk uses surplus milk unfit for human consumption to produce a new casein-based fiber as a bio-textile replacement for cotton. “Qmilk takes a highly innovative approach to repurposing a waste stream that is seen in every country in the world.” – Anke Domaske, Founder and CEO of Qmilk

Candice Reffe: Blue Flower Initiative

The Eileen Fisher Blue Flower Initiative (BFI) reframes the existing textile values chain as a sustainable eco-industrial co-operative with a paradigm shift from competition to collaboration. “We seek to take our bold experiment to scale. To make an impact that invokes and insures the wellbeing of our great, great grandchildren and our blue flowering planet. For this we need you to LAUNCH us with your expertise and access to resources and collaborators who can not only make the Blue Flower Initiative bloom, but also accelerate the adoption of this unprecedented model so that it will truly transform the planet.”– Eileen Fisher, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Eileen Fisher

Atshay Sethi: Ambercycle Recycling

Ambercycle’s novel process lowers the cost of recycling plastics and provides waste-generators and producers a sustainable and economically sensible choice for the disposal and synthesis of plastics. “With our new approach, we intend to revolutionize the concept of recycling to include environmentally friendly and sustainable elements to already existing infrastructure.” – Akshay Sethi, Co-founder of Ambercycle

Tara Sutherland: Artificial Honey Bee Silks

Bio-synthetic silk is produced through a process that allows industrial volume silk production at room temperature without negative environmental effects. “Proteins are under-represented in materials science mainly because, until now, the lack of structural protein templates that can be engineered and generated in sufficient amounts has limited exploration in this area.” – Tara Sutherland, Principle Research Scientist for CSIRO Division of Ecosystem Sciences

For the past few weeks, the ten innovators and their team members have been immersed in the LAUNCH program, beginning with counseling and mentorship in preparation for this week’s LAUNCH Forum. The LAUNCH Forum will feature innovator presentations and facilitated conversations with the LAUNCH Council, which consists of global thought leaders from multi-disciplined organizations in the public and private sector. The LAUNCH Council recommendations, collected during the two-day Forum, will inform individually-designed innovator Accelerator plans – which serve as the rocket fuel to propel each innovation toward Destination Success. The LAUNCH team guides, supports, and evaluate progress throughout the Accelerator process, which typically lasts between four-six months depending on the maturity of each innovation.

If you want to help these innovators reach success, contact the LAUNCH team.

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Filed under federal government, innovation, LAUNCH, NASA

Vote for LAUNCH Innovators!

We’re excited about the Top 20 finalists in our 2013 search for ten LAUNCH innovators. The materials challenge closed back in July. Now we’re in the middle of the selection process. For the first time, you can participate by casting your votes for your favorite innovations.

Vote for your favorite LAUNCH innovations

Vote for your favorite LAUNCH innovations

Based on the results from the public vote, the LAUNCH team will take the ten finalists with the highest vote counts and add points to their review scores.

Here’s how selection works:

  1. we bring in experts from the founding partner organizations (NASA, State Department, USAID and Nike), as well as external experts from other federal agencies and organizations, to review and rank all the applications  submitted by the challenge deadline;
  2. YOU weigh in on the top 20 (again, for the first time);
  3. our LAUNCH team conducts thorough interviews with each of the top 20 based on a standard set of questions, as well as specific questions generated during the review and ranking process;
  4. the team brings in experts for follow up interviews if we need a deeper dive; and
  5. the team collates the total scores of the review process (expert + public vote) along with the results of the innovator interviews, and conducts an in-depth assessment
  6. to arrive at consensus on the final ten who will be invited to present at the LAUNCH Forum.

The Top 20 finalists are highly curated by the end of the process, with the final ten rising to the top.

All of these finalists are amazing, and represent different system needs as reflected in the materials challenge. A few, though, really stand out to me. I’m SO jazzed about the possibilities. I wish I could highlight my favs…but I might influence your choices.

I’m curious which ones YOU pick as most promising.

Summaries of the Top 20

Algaeverde waste to fabrics
Algaeverde takes industrial, farm and municipal waste streams and converts them into Ethylene Glycol, the raw material used in the production of synthetic fabrics. This technology has multiple environmental benefits, beyond the redirection of toxic waste, such as bio-fuel as an output of the conversion application.
Algaeverde is still at prototype stage. They are looking for help taking their exciting innovation out of the lab and into the world.  STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Ambercycle plastic bottles to polyester
Ambercycle is a remarkable new technology that harnesses engineered enzymes to degrade plastic bottles, such as PET soda bottles, and transform them into PTA. PTA is the raw material in polyester, which is used in multiple products, from cars to clothing. Ambercycle is an innovation looking to become a business. They are at the stage of building a go-to-market team. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Artificial silk
This innovation, bio-synthetic silk, is produced by fermentation of honeybee cocoon silk within genetically engineered bacteria. The process allows industrial volumes of silk to be produced at room temperature without any negative environmental effects. The silk produced is highly flexible and suitable for knitting and weaving and can be formed into sponges and transparent films. Developed by researchers at Australia’s national science agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), this breakthrough technology has been published in peer-reviewed literature. They are now seeking to identify market opportunities. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

BARKTEX bark cloth
BARKTEX is a contemporary take on traditional bark cloth, which is produced in a sustainable way from the Ugandan Figus tree. Once the bark is stripped form the tree, new bark grows in its place – a truly sustainable product. BARKTEX can be treated with bright colors to create a unique material reminiscent of leather. The team is employing an innovative micro-enterprise model in Uganda that empowers women and provides food security for local farmers. They are looking to develop their business to reach new customers. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Growth and scale.

Benign by Design
Benign by Design helps individuals and organizations better evaluate the impact of materials they use. The team has developed data collection and analysis protocols to understand the impact of textiles through their entire lifecycle – potentially an invaluable resource for all product manufacturers. The Benign by Design team are looking to shape their solution into a marketable offer. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Concept.

Biocouture microbial fashion
Biocouture creates sustainable material from microbes and transforms it into beautiful haute couture. Their unique low-impact fermentation process creates a biodegradable material that can be used to create a wide variety of home-ware and fashion accessories. The Biocouture team have already received recognition for their innovation, including TED, and are now ready to take their concept to the next stage.
STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Blue Flower Initiative
The core purpose of the Blue Flower Initiative is to reframe the existing textile value chain as an eco-industrial co-operative, while supporting and empowering women at risk.The initiative – backed by Eileen Fisher, the American clothing designer and retailer –  is an innovative game changing business model. In addition, the initiative aims to identify new low-impact bio-fibers and manufacturing approaches. The Blue Flower Initiative are looking to prototype their ‘value chain of the future’ in the Bronx in New York and are looking for partners. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Concept.

CRAiLAR Flax Fibers
Flax is a natural fiber that has long shown promise as a base material for sustainable textiles. CRAiLAR has made advances in chemistry and manufacturing that now make flax competitive on cost and comfort with cotton. What’s more, flax can be grown with far less water and pesticides. CRAiLAR is a mature business that is looking to make the leap to compete with the cotton industry and accelerate adoption globally. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Commercial market/Deployment.

Eco-leather alternative
Eco-leather is a sustainable alternative to leather that avoids the large volumes of water and toxic chromium required to produce animal based leather. Unlike PVC (‘fake leather’), this breakthrough material, manufactured from plant oils and natural fibers, is breathable and friendly to the environment, as well as being waterproof and durable. The team behind Eco-leather have strong academic credentials and are looking to take their sustainable leather out of the lab and into the marketplace. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Ecovative Mushroom Materials
Ecovative is a completely biodegradable replacement for polystyrene, packing material or insulation. Remarkably, it can withstand heat, stress and exposure to water, yet be composted in your back garden. This is a fascinating biotechnology derived from mushrooms that can potentially replace numerous products that produce CO2. The team behind Ecovative are well on their way, but require access to private sector customers and help scaling their manufacturing process. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Commercial market/Deployment.

Fabdesigns spacesuit
Fabdesigns have developed breakthrough protective space-wear that provides radiation protection for astronauts with a high-degree of flexibility and additional fire-resistance. The dangerous levels of radiation that astronauts are exposed to beyond Earth orbit remains a significant health challenge for deeper exploration of the Solar System. Fabdesigns is looking for help to perfect their designs for use in space, as well as Earthly applications. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Concept.

Geckskin adhesives
Geckskin is a revolutionary take on adhesives, inspired by the footpads of the Gecko lizard.   Unlike glue-based adhesives, Geckskin creates dry and easily reversible adhesion without leaving any residue – while maintaining an impressive stickability. Geckskin can be used to mount a 42-inch Television on a wall without any loss in adhesion. Geckskin is a product of Felsuma LLC. The team are in start-up mode with a solid plan. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Hologenix Far-infrared
Hologenix is a unique functional fabric that has the ability to absorb and modify far-infrared light and change it into a form that can be more easily absorbed by human skin. Clinical evidence is beginning to show that far-infrared light has multiple heath benefits, such as improving blood flow – which can help accelerate healing. The team is looking to make this novel technology more widespread. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Growth and scale.

Materials Sustainability Index Online Sustainability Guide
The Materials Sustainability Index, originally developed by Nike, enables manufacturers to make better choices when designing products. This innovation, developed independently from Nike, builds on the data and capabilities of the MSI by creating a web portal designed to help shoppers meet their personal goals for sustainably manufactured apparel. Though this innovation is currently in the pilot stage, the web portal creative team is looking for partners to mature this capability. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Pilot.

QMilk milk fiber
QMilk takes surplus milk that is unfit for human consumption and produces a bio-textile replacement for cotton. The product is non-allergenic with potential applications in healthcare. QMilk takes a highly innovative approach to repurposing a waste stream that is seen in every country in the world. The QMilk team is now looking to find partners to help take their innovation to the next stage. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

REvolve: new textiles from old
REvolve tackles the growing problem of textile waste and proposes a way of collecting, sorting, and reprocessing it into new textile materials. The REvolve team is an ambitious start-up looking to pilot their ideas and create a truly ‘closed-loop’ system for the textile industry. This vision will require innovations and partnerships all along the supply-chain. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Pilot.

SLIPS stain resistant fabric
SLIPS is a breakthrough coating technology which makes natural fabrics stain resistant. It works by infusing a fluorinated oil lubricant into the structure of the fabric to make it water and oil repellant, or ‘omniphobic’. The resulting textiles that are more wear resistant, demonstrate better pressure performance and highly resilient to dirt. This technology has been scientifically validated and has won an R&D award. The team is now looking to commercialize their technology. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Commercial market/Deployment.

Solar Fiber
Solar Fiber is a functional fabric technology that weaves photovoltaic yarn into products that can generate their own power from sunlight. This innovative technology has many potential uses from outdoor equipment on Earth and in space, all the way to fashion and furnishings.The Solar Fibre team is looking for partners to help them scale their technology to industrial volumes. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

The Great Recovery
The Great Recovery is a manifesto for ‘closed-loop’ design. In other words, products that have negligible impact on the environment or are even beneficial. The Great Recovery team has developed a comprehensive re-thinking of every stage of the product development cycle: initial design, recovery, disassembly, recyclability and re-use. The goal of the Great Recovery is to pilot hands-on education to take these innovative approaches mainstream. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Prototype.

Waterbourne solvent free leather
Waterbourne is an artificial leather that is almost impossible to distinguish from real leather and is manufactured in a way that doesn’t require toxic solvents. Prior to the Waterbourne process, artificial leathers required foul smelling dimethylformamide (DMF) which is both energy intensive and highly polluting. Moreover residual amounts of solvent often remain on the material. Waterbourne has been developed by Bayer Material Sciences and is currently moving into pilot stage. STAGE OF INNOVATION: Pilot.

NOTE: Some of you may wonder what most of these innovations have to do with NASA. Any collaborative venture, if successful, will reflect the interests of all the participants.  Our NASA reviewers were thrilled with some of the unexpected and unconventional solutions that bubbled up with the challenge. Know that we have a longer term vision for success than our partners. Going to scale for NASA, means that we can improve the lives of six Earthings living onboard the International Space Station…or future human crews traveling to Mars. For USAID, scale means improvement for millions of lives in developing countries. The key to collaboration is finding the common passion that we can rally around — such as game changing sustainability solutions, in the case of LAUNCH: Collective Genius for a Better World.

Take a look at the Top 20 innovations, and cast your vote for your favorites.

Deadline: August 20th.

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