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NASA’s advice aimed toward area businesses

Ohio and Michigan companies to participate in roadshow events


Hirzel Canning Co. on Lemoyne Road in Northwood is among those that could benefit from the expertise of a NASA engineer. NASA has a wealth of contacts in the agribusiness field and believes the contacts could help a company like Hirzel Canning.

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Sixteen Ohio and Michigan companies have been chosen to receive help from scientists and engineers from NASA in connection with an upcoming “roadshow” that the federal space agency will hold on June 12 at the University of Toledo.

The list includes an auto parts supplier, agri-businesses, a biotech firm, and a solar industry firm. But also chosen was a firm that makes hip clothing for young adults, a firm that makes food-cooking equipment, and a 4-year-old Toledo firm that makes packaging for relief supplies earmarked to be dropped over disaster zones.

“I looked at each one of these proposals and sometimes I’m scratching my head. But [NASA] engineers looked at them and decided there’s something they can do to help each of them with their processes,” said Keith Burwell, president of the Toledo Community Foundation, one of nine agencies and organizations staging the NASA Roadshow.

“That was our biggest message to [applicants]: Don’t limit yourself. If, for example, you just make rocket fuel, you should still apply because their technology can cover a vast array of industries,” Mr. Burwell said.

“They could see all the uses for Velcro and Super Glue. You’d never guess that NASA could use that, but they did.”

NASA scientists, — specifically engineers and technical specialists from the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland — will provide up to eight hours of free R&D consultation and, in some cases, will share declassified technologies at the June 12 event.

The roadshow, NASA’s second such event in Ohio, is part of a federally funded, three-year experimental program to comply with a White House directive that NASA and other federal agencies accelerate their technology-transfer activities and make available to all the benefits of federally funded research and development investments.

Applicants submitted proposals in April listing issues that they thought NASA could help solve, and a committee and NASA officials looked over the applications and chose the ones most likely to be aided by NASA.

Five companies were chosen to get immediate help at the June 12 event: Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. of Findlay; H & H Specialties LLC of Temperance; Henny Penny Corp. of Eaton, Ohio, near Dayton; Metal Forming and Coining Corp. of Maumee, and SkyLife Technology Holdings LLC of Toledo.

Four companies have been invited to the Glenn center in Cleveland because NASA officials felt their problems could best be solved there instead of at UT. The four are a second division of Cooper Tire & Rubber; Hirzel Canning Co, of Northwood; Nextronex Inc. of Millbury, and SPB Global LLC of Perrysburg.

Seven other companies have been offered “alternate” help in which NASA will either send engineers to the companies or use video-conferencing or teleconferencing to aid them with their issues. The seven are Akadeum Life Sciences of Ann Arbor; Ann Arbor Aircraft of Adrian, Mich.; AV3 Ltd. of Columbus; Plastic Technologies Inc. of Holland; Rowmark LLC of Findlay; SFC Graphics of Toledo, and Mennel Milling Co. of Fostoria.

Joseph Katich, project manager at SkyLife, which makes packages that are air-dropped into disaster zones and disperse the contents over a wide area before the packages ever reach the ground, said his company was thrilled to be selected for help by NASA engineers.

SkyLife is developing a small audio and video device that can be air-dropped into a disaster zone. The device would provide refugees with critical information, such as the location of safe zones, where to find food or water, or where to find medical aid, shelter, or military protection.

“That’s what we’ll be working on with NASA when NASA comes to town,” Mr. Katich said. “We couldn’t ask for better help because they are probably the best communications company in the world,” he added.

“We’re particularly interested in working with them for their assistance in communications advice and perhaps using their wind tunnels as well. They have the most advanced wind tunnels in the country,” Mr. Katich said.

William Hirzel, manager of Hirzel Canning’s operations in Northwood, also is pleased to get NASA assistance, but the company, famous for its sauerkraut and tomato sauces and products, has broader needs.

“We need technology transfer and that’s what it’s all about for us,” Mr. Hirzel said. “We have some technologies that we think have a useful purpose.”

But the company isn’t certain about how to go about making the technology commercially viable for other users and purposes. NASA, because it has a wealth of contacts, including many in the agribusiness field, feels it can help.

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.

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