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Space Health Innovation Challenge: Hacking space in Houston

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February 7, 2014 – Houston’s Space Health Innovation Challenge kicks off. The event will be running all weekend. If you’re not a hacker, but would like to see the results you can come to the BioScience Research Collaborative, Rice University at 3:30 on Sunday (2/9) to see the results.

Like much of corporate America, NASA has a problem. Years of optimizing best practices have resulted in libraries full of standard operating procedures and mandatory checklists. NASA has become expert at repeating a working process over and over without deviation. Innovation is replaced with continuous improvement, a process of doing the same things over and over slightly more effectively and efficiently. In the world of space health, modernization means replacing the 2-3” binder of standard medical procedures with several hundred pages of PDF available on the astronaut’s laptop. Unfortunately, replacing binders of training and reference materials with PDFs of the same materials is a 1990’s solution. Corporate America has been replacing their critical safety and training PDFs with on-line interactive systems for ten years.

Houston is home to a budding biosciences entrepreneurial community and lots of innovative hackers. Although NASA, like all government agencies, is required to reach out to small business, in fact the bureaucracy around commercialization of NASA’s Health Portfolio is difficult for even aerospace giants to navigate. Instead of addressing this big issue, hackathon organizers decided to start with a smaller, more practical approach. NASA has identified nine (9) specific problems around space wellness that lend themselves to virtual solutions. Significant progress on these small chunks might actually be made in a two-day focused effort if you could get a group designers, developers and medical experts together who are used to thinking out of the box.

As a first attempt to open a dialog with “mom & pop” innovators, this should be an interesting experiment. Stay tuned for reports from the event.

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