FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – NASA is coming to South Florida this week to plant the space flag in Broward County.
It’s all happening at the new Levan Center for Innovation over at Nova Southeastern University.
The state-of-the-art co-working space provides services for startups and entrepreneurs, and now NASA is helping out too.
A robot named Pepper is welcoming guests as they enter what you can call the world’s first theme park for entrepreneurs right here in South Florida.
The 54,000-square-foot facility serves as a co-working and meeting space for large businesses or the smallest of start-ups.
“We have right now about 80 different startup companies here in the Levan Center, and one of the things we have the ability to do is remove the brick and mortar needs of an entrepreneur,” said John Wensveen, Executive Director, of the Alan B. Levan NSU Broward Center of Innovation. “So you don’t need to rent an office somewhere -- you can actually physically be based in this location as a member.”
Robots, drones, 3-D printers and all of the space serve as an office for people like Wanjun Gao, who is the founder and CEO of Bifarm -- a company based in South Florida.
“We have a lot of new ideas infused in one place,” he told Local 10 News.
Bifarm merges agriculture and technology, growing food without soil in perfectly controlled climates – meaning they’re growing things like tomatoes in places like space.
You can call Gao a spaceprenuer.
“The facility is fabulous, so we can focus on the things that we are building instead of worrying about things we don’t have to worry about,” he said.
Speaking of space, NASA is now partnering with the Levan Center to bring their resources there.
“There’s just this incredible talent pool in South Florida that I feel like is untapped,” said Trent Smith.
Smith, a manager of technology at NASA, will be at the Levan Center this week for South Florida Space Day.
“We have so many inventions that businesses can license to get a competitive advantage or maybe get a new business venture going,” he said. “There’s more than 1,000 patents that are available for license.”
“For the last seven to eight years, I and others have been trying to build awareness about space to South Florida and no one really sees the opportunity, and there’s a belief that space is spaceships and Martians and satellites, and there’s so much more than that,” Wensveen said.
So, not only do members now have access to NASA’s resources, they also have access to all the infrastructure and networking at Levan, including a war room.
“This is the only military grade in the southeast region of the U.S. that has a very special unique function,” Wensveen said.
The war room provides all levels of training in cybersecurity and there’s also a pitch room for pitching ideas to investors.
There’s also a media room and makerspace.
“We have an entire robot fleet in there (and an) aerial drone fleet that’s managed out of this facility,” Wensveen said.
A robot named Scout is able to head out on the battlefield, even helping during search and rescue missions, like after hurricanes and is also able to deliver food and pick up debris.
Another robot named Nao greets people at the center, walks them over to the coffee bar, break dances and also helps entrepreneurs with things like programming and coding.
There is so much to see, learn and grow from at the Levan Center, and it’s not even fully complete yet.
More phases should be complete by December, but you can already start growing your business there now.
South Florida Space Day is this Wednesday at the Levan Center.
If you’re interested in signing up for Space Day or learning more about becoming a member, visit levancenterspaceday.com.