Thursday, September 28, 2023

Grad student first from UTSA to participate in select entrepreneurial program

Grad student first from UTSA to participate in select entrepreneurial program

JUNE 8, 2021 — A UTSA graduate student’s passion for renewable energy has earned him an invitation to participate in a prominent entrepreneurial training program. Connor Gallagher-Moore will attend the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship Program, a series of courses dedicated to helping college students build companies and develop entrepreneurial skills to ensure career readiness while still in school.

Like many college students of his generation, Gallagher-Moore is an advocate for renewable energy. He says his mechanical engineering education at UTSA sparked what could be a revolutionary idea. Gallagher-Moore wants to change the way solar energy charges power storage batteries. He partnered with UTSA alumnus Matthis Herrera ’12 to form a company called HelioSucros and develop the concept.

“As an undergraduate, we were always pushed to think outside of the box, in and out of class.”

“We want to integrate solar panels with a battery storage unit in one package rather than them being located in two separate places,” Gallagher-Moore said.

Solar panels can charge batteries to use as electricity for off-grid use, typically at night or on cloudy days. These batteries are mostly large and expensive. A typical consumer unit is about four feet high and two feet wide. Many storage batteries cost about $10,000 with installation and often involve long electrical runs from the solar panels to the battery.

“I’ve been working with Matthis to integrate the storage battery and solar panel into one unit,” Gallagher-Moore explained. “Our first prototype is a 50-watt panel with a one-kilowatt storage. We're already working on a second prototype where it'd be a 100-watt panel with about 1.7 kilowatts of storage.”

The key to making this functional is identifying next-generation battery technology. Having a much smaller battery incorporated with the solar panel eliminates large storage batteries and cuts labor costs to connect from the solar panel. Gallagher-Moore and Herrera believe their battery storage-solar model will increase efficiencies and lower the overall cost of opting for solar-battery storage.

“We're still in the developmental phase and looking at different types of the battery chemistries available,” Gallagher-Moore said. “A promising technology is a fairly new battery composition called lithium titanate. They’re about a pound a piece and could work very well integrating with the solar panel.”

Through the Office for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UTSA offers students wide-ranging support to take innovations and turn them into viable business startups. The Big Rowdy Idea and Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship $100K Technology Venture competitions are two events in which students can gain valuable experiential learning opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills at UTSA.

“As an undergraduate, we were always pushed to think outside of the box, in and out of class,” Gallagher-Moore, said. “We learned how to do initial customer discovery, validate your design, product scheduling, budgets, lots of useful education on what it takes to commercialize a unique idea.”

UTSA’s partnership with Blackstone LaunchPad is one of the latest programs to help refine students’ entrepreneurial skills through a nationally recognized program. Gallagher-Moore is leading the way for other UTSA students to learn Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship entrepreneurial best practices.

“Blackstone LaunchPad is an indispensable partner providing elite educational experiences for budding entrepreneurs and we’re very pleased to have Connor as our first UTSA student participating in their fellowship program,” said Randolph Quinn, executive director of the Office of Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Blackstone partners with some of the leading universities in the United States, so Connor will be learning alongside fellow students recognized as having excellent potential as successful entrepreneurs.”

“Being on the engineering side, I have more technical expertise and haven't been exposed to a lot of business aspects,” Gallagher-Moore added. “I look forward to learning how they are going to help develop my skills on that side of the business, along with working on my business case to validate the market and that our numbers actually make sense.”

Gallagher-Moore starts his Blackstone LaunchPad course on June 15 and finishes on August 3. He plans to take his newfound knowledge and apply it through his HelioSecros venture while also pursing his M.S. in mechanical engineering at UTSA.

Bruce Forey

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