Michael Vergalla


Robotics, Digital Manufacturing

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Areas of Expertise

Space-Industry  •  Robotics

About Michael

Michael Vergalla is dedicated to designing better futures for continuous generations of life on Earth and Beyond. His background is in engineering, robotics, fluid dynamics and instrumentation. He is driven to understanding our physical world.

His work in rocket propellant, slosh dynamics at Florida Institute of Technology involved building progressive levels of experimental robotic platforms (ground, zeroG aircraft, sounding rockets, and the International Space Station) that instrumented and digitized real world fluid phenomena and used the data for validating virtual computer simulations. Michael was trained in instrumentation techniques at von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics where he used pressure sensitive paint and image processing techniques to implement a new measurement method in a Turbine Test Rig.

In 2010, Michael was part of the Carbon Cycle Monitoring and Understanding Report that came out of the International Space University. The report looked at combining space based, land based, and ocean based robotic/automated assets to drive understanding and decision making in regards to a fundamental Earth Processes.

Michael dedicated 6 years to being part of the first private team attempting to soft land on the lunar surface. The team is a lead competitor in the Google Lunar Xprize. He was the 2nd employee at Moon Express where he designed, built and tested intelligent, robotic test vehicles and spacecraft for establishing a cis-lunar economy and enabling humans to become a multi-planet species. Michael worked in all roles from engineering, to testing, to investor relations and advancing strategic partnerships. While at Moon Express the team raised 30.5M dollars, pre-product or service. Michael lead research with Autodesk partners in utilizing generative design to make a mass optimized spacecraft. He has continued his generative design research beyond the scope of Moon Express projects.

In 2015, Michael attended the Global Solutions Program at Singularity University. He made it through the first round for the first class in 2009, but was unable to attend due to research responsibilities at Florida Institute of Technology. The company that he built combined distributed sensor networks and computing to generate advanced hyper-local weather forecasts for renewable energy, health, agriculture and transportation markets. The work was based off of a 2015 study that showed by connecting independent wind farms and using the data to run advanced forecasts, ratepayers saved 40 million dollars and due to better planning saved 250,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere via auxiliary diesel power generation.

Michael believes that combining disciplines leads to unique solutions. He is an independent consultant and has worked for clients such as Florida Syngas, a Waste to Energy startup using plasma torch reactors to generate syngas for power generation and processing to liquid fuels. He designed and built biomedical instrumentation and nano-fluidic channel lab experiments for academic research. In 2016, Michael was a resident at Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop where he continued his work on generative design and refocused his passions for robotics and impact design.

He is the founder and lead researcher at Free Flight Research Lab (FFRL) a Non-Profit Research Institute dedicated to creating positive global impact through the applications of exponential technologies in materials, sensors, robotics, and communication to advance: climate science & weather forecasting;​ conservation & resource preservation; and aerospace sciences, human factors & free flight safety.

Michael currently teaches design thinking and digital manufacturing at the Autodesk Gallery Design & Make Studio, works on Free Flight Lab projects with international partners such as Free Flight Physiology Project, and consults to stealth space start ups in an advisory, engineering and fund raising role.

Mike Vergalla of Moon Express Inc. at Western's Space Day

Speaking Topics

  • What Happens When Computers Become Designers

    How Generative Design will Empower the Future Creatives of the World
    As we use low-cost, distributed sensors to connect this world, our ability to generate insights and solutions for highly complex problems escapes our capacity to do it alone.

    We will continue to build larger, interactive, responsive structures with millions of constraints and variables that balance human needs with design, engineering, and business requirements (think: space stations, factories, sustainable cities, weather etc.) How, then, can we build a scalable, efficient system, capable of handling large amounts of data, while reducing the time complexity involved in coming up with a solution, or solution spaces?

    The answer lies in the new field of “generative design”.

    This emerging design methodology leverages the convergence of digital design tools with low-cost distributed computation. Today it’s possible to auto-generate design models and build complex structures with efficient integration and higher level of granularity in increasingly short periods. This has a direct impact on the not only the final product but the team building and iterating through the design process.

    Michael Vergalla explores the future of generative design, where computers will collaborate with humans to build intricate models, and how we’re close to a future where intelligent systems could soon acquire the creative abilities to build sophisticated design models.

    In this talk, you will:
    – Explore real-life implementations of generative design, and get a view into the latest tools that are currently used for creative computational modeling
    – Capture insights on how to utilize computational collaboration, and work alongside an intelligent, creative digital team-mate
    – Discover long-term implications of trends in generative design
    – Analyze the future risks, opportunities, and challenges in generative design.

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