Students Aim Engineering Skills at Gun Safety

smart fire students

Two student teams from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering have been selected as finalists in the $1 million challenge issued by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams to design smart-gun technology that will save lives.

Working independently, they arrived at a similar approach to developing innovations that will prevent unauthorized users from firing handguns: retrofits rather than completely new firearms, not only for reliability reasons but because their market research indicated that owners and policy leaders are more likely to embrace the technology. Both teams decided to focus on handguns used by police — a natural market but also technical advisors for the competition founded by the borough president, a former police officer. Both also employ biometrics — fingerprint sensors — and redundancies designed to ensure adapted handguns will fire reliably.

SmartFire Technology began developing its design and business plan last year during TigerLaunch, the nation's largest student-run inter-collegiate entrepreneurship competition. Taking lessons from Lean Launchpad methodologies taught by David Lefer as part of Tandon’s Innovation and Technology Forum, the students honed their proposal. Lefer, a former auxiliary policeman, is the faculty mentor for SmartFire’s Eirik Humlen, a Mechanical Engineering (‘18) student and former lance corporal in the Royal Norwegian Navy; and Richard Vo, a Computer Science (‘19) student and award-winning competitive civilian shooter from Missouri.

Sy Cohen, team leader and Mechanical Engineering alumnus

Alum Sy Cohen, Autonomous Ballistics team leader

The Autonomous Ballistics team integrates a computer or smartphone interface into its proposal. Mentored by Anthony Clarke, a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering adjunct professor who teaches Computer Aided Design and consults on manufacturing and military electronics design, the team includes Tandon students and alumni: Sy Cohen, team leader and Mechanical Engineering alumnus (‘17); Ashwin Raj Kumar, a doctoral candidate in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Jonathan Ng, a Mechanical Engineering alumnus (‘16); and Eddilene Paola Cordero Pardo, Management of Technology master’s student and an officer in the Colombian Naval Defense.