FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:            March 13, 2014

For further information:
Liz Wilson, Marketing Director                                   
Ben Franklin Technology Partners/CNP
814-898-6541 / lizwilson@psu.edu 

Ben Franklin Seed Investment Will Help Company Develop Magnetic Crawler Robot

HERMITAGE, PA – How does a coal power plant safely and easily inspect its boilers?  With a little help from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, www.cnp.benfranklin.org, a Hermitage-based startup, Gecko Robotics, will develop a robot equipped with an ultrasonic test (UT) system that can easily measure the thickness of the combustor tubes without a team of workers perched on scaffolding out on the plant floor.

The team behind Gecko Robotics, Orion Correa and Jake Loosararian, discovered that the pain point for coal-burning power plants is losing power generation revenue because of an outage.  A full ultra-sonic inspection conducted during regularly scheduled plant maintenance is very labor intensive and expensive to conduct.  For that reason plants put off the testing and then find themselves with a problem. Some plants have experienced up to six unplanned outages in one year because of cracks in the boiler tubes.  With regular robotic inspections, the company could identify tube trouble spots before the pipes actually burst and force a shutdown.

Ben Franklin’s investment will help Gecko Robotics further develop a customized robot with UT sensor heads. Currently they have an order from Scrubgrass Generating Company, a company they met during their college engineering project, to use their prototype to inspect the boiler and then verify the data output with the Plant Engineer.

Gecko’s President, Orion Correa, commented, “It’s hard to imagine now that all of this started from a senior engineering project at Grove City College.  It’s our goal to use the Ben Franklin funding to get us on the road to setting up a sustainable inspection service platform.  We are hoping to find ourselves in the position of conducting annual robotic UT inspections in at least ten Pennsylvania coal power plants within the next couple of years.”

The company, a graduate of the Grove City College Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s VentureLab (under the Highmark Business Innovation Center at Grove City College), is currently a client of the eCenter@LindenPointe, a business incubator located in Hermitage, PA. Yvonne English, Executive Director of the eCenter@LindenPointe and Interim Executive Director of the Grove City College Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, applauded the partnership, saying, “Having worked with Jake and Orion previously at Grove City College and now at the eCenter@LindenPointe, I am thrilled to see the progress that they have made in taking their business from the idea stage to the seed funding stage. I am also thankful that we have a resource like Ben Franklin to assist promising entrepreneurs in our region. By providing local startups with the capital that they need to pursue their ideas, Ben Franklin is helping us to attract and retain these companies.”

For more information on Gecko Robotics, click on www.geckorobotics.com   

Ben Franklin Technology Partners CNP, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, provides investment capital and business support services to emerging tech-based companies and small, existing manufacturers for the purpose of creating and retaining jobs in Pennsylvania.  www.cnp.benfranklin.org