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Eleven startup companies will move on to the final phase of the Space Race Challenge – incorporating their new startups, licensing their inventions from NASA and pursuing seed funding.

The Medical Center of the Americas Foundation on Tuesday announced the 11 winning startups, which were selected from more than 40 semifinalists from across the globe. The winners were each awarded $2,500.

“We are excited to have four winners and one finalist from our region, and we believe these teams have great potential to launch successful technology-based companies locally,” Jeff Fuchsberg, MCA Foundation director of innovation projects, said in a statement.

The Space Race Challenge is NASA’s first such competition. As part of the space agency’s long-time efforts to get more of its technology into the hands of private industry, it launched the Space Race in January with the nonprofit MCA Foundation in El Paso and the nonprofit Center for Advancing Innovation, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Since the competition began in January, the teams have received entrepreneurship training and mentorship. The winning teams were selected based on the quality of their business plans, financial models and 20-minute live pitches to a panel of expert judges, according to organizers.

One of the winning teams, made up of students at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, wants to put to another use a technology NASA developed to monitor the integrity of spacecraft electrical systems – monitoring athletes and soldiers for concussions.

“I thought the TTUHSC El Paso team proposed the most innovative use of any of the technologies in the entire challenge, and their development efforts went well beyond what is typically seen in a business plan competition,” Fuchsberg said.

A team of students from the University of Texas at El Paso, Native Coatings, formed a startup around a NASA technology they want to turn into a product that would help preserve America’s aging public infrastructure. The product is applied to the outside of concrete structures and prevents the corrosion of the rebar inside by sacrificing itself so that the paint corrodes instead of the metal.

The winning teams are:

• Minus Tau, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso; and Sun City SmartWire, University of Texas at El Paso, co-winners. NASA invention: a device for wire fault detection and rerouting

• Tellus Aerospace, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. NASA invention: lightweight acoustic liner to reduce noise in aircraft engines.

• Stratodynamics, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. NASA invention: lightweight UAV sensing and control system.

• Genetoo, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. NASA invention: surface particle contamination mitigation methods.

• Native Coatings, University of Texas at El Paso. NASA invention: liquid coating for corrosion prevention in rebar.

• RA Tech, University of Rochester. NASA invention: electrochemically enhanced mechanical polishing.

• EDroneS, Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Juárez. NASA invention: high-resolution, real-time three-dimensional imaging.

• ElectroKite, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. NASA invention: kite-like wind power generation control system.

• Free Electron Designs, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. NASA invention: high-power density solid oxide fuel cell and fabrication process.

• Joule, University of California Los Angeles. NASA invention: compliant electrode and composite materials for piezoelectric wind and mechanical energy conversions.

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Email El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105. Twitter: @ReporterRobby.


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