March 18, 2024

Meet The First Winners Of NASA’s Inclusive Space Tech Catalyst Prize

NASA has announced the first winners of its Space Tech Catalyst prize, which aims to engage more underrepresented and diverse individuals in space tech.

The initiative is part of NASA’s broader commitment to fostering a more inclusive environment.

Each Space Tech Catalyst prize winner receives $25,000 to contribute to creating a more inclusive space technology ecosystem.

“As NASA continues to explore the unknown, making the impossible possible, we are committed to engaging talents from all backgrounds to advance exploration,” said Shahra Lambert, NASA’s senior advisor for engagement, in a press statement.

“By providing funding to this space technology community, NASA is ensuring the Artemis Generation will have the necessary tools to expand humanity’s reach.”

Winners were selected for their exemplary collaboration with diverse researchers, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

The winners

Amber Imai-Hong

CEO, Mahina Aerospace

Credit: Amber Imai-Hong via Mahina Aerospace

Amber Imai-Hong founded Mahina Aerospace with her team from the Hawai‘i Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

The Hawaii-based aerospace tech startup aims to lead the way in accessible and innovative solutions within the technology field of small satellites called CubeSats.

Bahiy Watson

Co-founder and executive director, The 1881 Institute of Technology

Credit: Bahiy Watson via X

Bahiy Watson‘s work at The 1881 Institute aims to prepare underrepresented populations for careers in engineering and technology.

He is currently a structural analysis engineer at Boeing and has over two decades of experience in mechanical engineering.

Diego Sandoval

Founder, Cyncrocity

Credit: Diego Sandoval via LinkedIn

As the founder of the Cyncrocity app, Diego Sandoval is building the event discovery, ticketing, and networking system for global innovation ecosystems.

The Space Tech Catalyst prize will allow Cyncrocity to further develop its technology supporting the Artemis program, a generational effort to develop an ongoing human presence on the moon.

Johnnie Turnage

Co-founder, Black Tech Saturdays

Credit: Johnnie Turnage via Bridge Detroit

Johnnie Turnage has nearly 15 years of experience working as a grassroots activist and tech entrepreneur.

His work at Black Tech Saturdays aims to foster a culture of innovation and imagination to support the growth of Detroit’s Black tech community.

Janeya Griffin

Founder and chair, Equity Space Alliance, Inc.

Credit: Janeya Griffin via LinkedIn

Janeya Griffin is a strategy consultant, entrepreneur, and adjunct professor at California State University, San Bernardino.

As the founder of Equity Space Alliance, Griffin works to ensure the new space economy is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible through ownership, media, resourcing, community building, and educational campaigns.

Also selected for the Space Tech Catalyst prize

  • Caitlin O’Brien, SciAccess, Inc.
  • Zainab Abbas, SciTech@U
  • Marta Miletic, San Diego State University
  • Felecia Brown, NorthStar of GIS
  • Arif Rahman, Hawaii Pacific University
  • Sierra Brown
  • Denise Thorsen, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Joshua Neubert, Institute of Competition Sciences
  • Madison Feehan, Space Copy, Inc.
  • Athip Thirupathi Raj, University of Arizona SpaceTREx Lab
  • Annika Rollock, Aurelia Institute
  • M. von Nkosi, Institute for Local Innovations, Inc.
  • Joseph Grant, New Generation Solutions SST
  • Sambit Bhattacharya, Fayetteville State University
  • Dalia David, Honest Eating, LLC

Featured image: Janeya Griffin

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)