When you think of NASA, you probably think of astronauts and space missions. But NASA is also at the frontier of open innovation, including public competitions and crowdsourcing. This week, we’re delighted to announce that Luminary Labs has been awarded a five-year open innovation services contract with the NASA Tournament Lab — for the second time.
Luminary Labs first joined the NASA Tournament Lab in 2015. Over the past five years, we’ve had the honor of designing and producing multistage open innovation challenges to identify and advance solutions to some of the world’s thorniest problems — measuring Earth’s magnetic field, finding illicit opioids in the international mail, rescuing people in the water, and detecting biothreats — on behalf of federal agencies.
A look at the past five years of our NASA Tournament Lab engagements:
Geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s $2.1 million competition is seeking novel approaches to geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model, which is embedded in thousands of systems and supports navigation for smartphones, commercial airlines, the military, and more.
During Phase 1, the challenge sought novel concepts for geomagnetic data collection and selected 10 winners from 40 submissions for space, aerial, oceanic, and land-based solutions. In Phase 2, five winners were nominated from 17 innovators who developed and submitted detailed designs and plans for data collection methodologies.
This summer, six innovator teams are iterating and refining their designs and testing plans during Phase 3 of the challenge, with support from subject matter experts in sensors, platform engineering, mission operations, program management, the World Magnetic Model, and geomagnetism. Later this year, the Phase 3 teams will present to a judging panel, and the challenge will award $900,000 in cash prizes.
Detection tools to help find illicit opioids in international mail
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate’s $1.55 million competition sought novel plans for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools to help find illicit opioids in international mail. Eight finalists developed their plans into prototypes during a 14-week accelerator, and the teams tested their solutions on-site at a government facility. Winners were announced in December 2019.
S&T and its government partners plan to continue working with the providers of the most promising solutions to further develop prototypes and establish follow-on production agreements. And one of the finalists has already received additional funding from the Dutch government.
Affordable solutions for making a person in the water easier to find
In 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, in collaboration with DHS S&T, launched the U.S. Coast Guard Ready for Rescue Challenge, a $255,000 prize competition seeking boater safety solutions that would help make it easier to find people in the water. The solutions had to be comfortable and convenient enough to actually use, affordable enough to encourage consumer adoption — and they had to actually work.
Phase I of the challenge, designed and produced by Luminary Labs, named five winners and 16 honorable mentions; all winners were invited to pitch their solutions in a “Piranha Pool” to compete for additional Phase II prizes that could be used toward developing concepts into working prototypes.
In Phase III, four finalists demonstrated their prototypes during a search and rescue experiment. At the conclusion of the challenge, the finalists were continuing to develop their technologies, and DHS S&T said it was working with some of the finalists to help them navigate the commercial market. In addition to making its product available to outdoor enthusiasts and the military, one of the finalist teams sent its technology to space last month.
Novel uses of existing data to detect biothreats
DHS S&T, in collaboration with the Office of Health Affairs National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC), launched the $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge in 2017. The challenge a big question: Can you help identify biothreats in real time, and can you do so using data we already have?
The challenge named five finalists, and those teams joined a virtual accelerator to develop their concepts into detailed system designs with guidance from expert mentors. In 2018, the challenge named a grand-prize winner, Pandemic Pulse, that integrated Twitter and Google Search data with infectious disease monitoring tools to detect biothreat signals. The runner-up, Pre-syndromic Surveillance, combined emergency department, health clinic, and social media data to discover outbreaks and piloted a working prototype with New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Members of the winning team from the Computational Epidemiology Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital have recently surveyed COVID-19 symptoms and used nontraditional data — including satellite images and internet searches — to ask new questions about when the coronavirus pandemic began.
Photo credit: NASA