On May 13, 2015, Bob Payne, SATOP program director, along with Richelle Brasher, SATOP project engineer, gave a presentation to the Houston Inventors Association. The presentation familiarized the inventors and small business owners with the SATOP program, outlined what SATOP does for small businesses, and highlighted the available expertise from scientists, professors and engineers within Alliance Partner organizations.

Coincidentally, a small business owner, Gary McFarland from Texas City, Texas, was in the audience during the SATOP presentation and was seeking material recommendations for a new, innovative trailer hitch mounting bracket. McFarland’s novel mounting bracket is designed to allow users the flexibility of installing it either in the bed of a pickup truck or under the back seat of the truck.

After the meeting, Gary submitted a formal request, and SATOP reached out to it’s Alliance Partners to find an engineer with the expertise to resolve this technical challenge. SATOP Project Engineer Richelle Brasher matched the small business owner with Eric Kuehnel, an engineer with Jacobs, an aerospace company that provides engineering and scientific services to NASA Johnson Space Center.

The engineer analyzed the product’s design, provided material recommendations and completed a stress analysis that was instrumental in the decision to manufacture the device from a non-metallic material. These recommendations decreased the overall weight of the mounting bracket, reduced the manufacturing cost, and lowered shipping cost for McFarland.