Three teams of eight finalists won the final pitch competition on Nov. 10 in the concluding event of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN)’s Hacks Power Play: Electrifying Operations on the Edge.

The winning teams will each receive $15,000 and an opportunity to continue developing their electric and energy technology solutions for Department of Defense (DoD) energy consumption and storage solution concepts.

The final pitch event began with a keynote from Dr. David Baker, lead for electrochemical energy at Army Research Laboratory. His research focuses on harvesting energy from indigenous sources such as water, wastewater, solar energy, and plant matter.

“There is this fundamental energy problem that needs to be solved in order for the future to be realized,” said Dr. Baker. “When we look at the virtual future, we recognize most things will need to be powered…but working with the DoD is a great place to solve some of [the] energy problems.”

Meet the Winners

  • OptoRelay: The team includes an engineer from Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane, an undergraduate student studying computer science at San Diego State University, and a doctoral student studying applied physics at Texas A&M University. Power Play Solution: OptoRelay’s technology seeks to increase reliability by using cutting-edge Free Space Optical (FSO) energy harvesting techniques. This solution would work in tandem with current power-source solutions and function as an emergency backup system.

  • eve Vehicles: eve Vehicles is a University of Texas-affiliated corporation that previously developed a hydrogen fuel cell drone in collaboration with the university’s Center for Electromagnetics. Power Play Solution: Existing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) require either mid-air refueling, recharging, or returning to base before continuing mission objectives. The team’s drone concept, Camera Reconnaissance on Wire/Wind (CROW), incorporates energy-generating technologies that can be used for lithium-ion and smart-battery charging to recharge the CROW autonomously in the mission environment.

  • Arbor Batteries: Arbor Batteries is a team from the University of Michigan including a mechanical engineering professor, recent graduate, and mentor. Power Play Solution: The solution develops a new manufacturing process for lithium-ion batteries that enables 10-minute fast charging without sacrificing energy density, cycle life, or safety.

“These winning solutions encapsulate the opportunity for innovation and solutions when DoD partners collaborate with these problem solvers and help develop their ideas,” said Kedar Pavgi, program manager of NSIN Hacks. “Energy is paramount to the DoD’s modernization priorities, and having our winners support those efforts through different angles highlights the potential for this program to bring together key stakeholders.”

The Power Play hackathon kicked off two weeks ago with 90 innovators from across the country. They formed 13 teams to utilize the advantages of each other’s skill sets to develop solution concepts for modernizing electronics and field equipment for military energy availability on operating bases, remote installations, and conflict zones.

Over the last two weeks, the teams met with experts from the military and defense industry who provided mentorship to guide their understanding of turning ideas into viable ventures to solve DoD mission needs. They also met one-on-one with experts to prepare and refine their pitches for the judges.

NSIN partnered with Army Research Lab to develop this hackathon to accelerate concepts, technologies, and systems in three focus areas: Power consumption, microgrids and batteries, and autonomous power.

Energy and access to reliable power to efficiently provide, store, or consume energy is a top modernization priority of the DoD. Geographic constraints, battlefield adversaries, logistics, and re-supply efforts in austere environments present a significant challenge for military planners.

Zoom Recording

Watch the final pitch round competition for Power Play here.

About NSIN

The National Security Innovation Network is a program of the U.S. Department of Defense that collaborates with major universities and the venture community to develop solutions that drive national security innovation. We operate three portfolios of programs and services: National Service, Collaboration, and Acceleration. Together, these portfolios form a pipeline of activities and solutions that accelerate the pace of defense innovation.