Orbital ATK

The Valley of the Sun is a big place and it constantly changes. You can always find new and surprising things, sometimes right next door. For example, who knew that goat yoga was a thing?

As we search for content for this site, we frequently find ourselves saying, “Wow. That’s in the Valley?” So, we thought we’d share some of those surprises with you. How many did you already know about?

1. Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Alcor Cryonics
SuperD dewars that hold between 9 and 11 whole body patients.

The main premise of the hit TV show “Futurama,” multiple “Star Trek” episodes, and plenty of other sci-fi shows involves cryonics. However, the practice is actually very real, and boasts clients like Walt Disney and baseball legend Ted Williams.

The idea behind cryonics is that, at the moment of death, your body gets frozen and stays in a kind of stasis. Then once medical science finds a way to treat your illness or reverse old age, you get unfrozen, fixed up and you continue your life.

Maybe you already knew that. However, what you might not know is that one of the world’s largest cryonics companies, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, operates out of Scottsdale. Founded in 1972, as of this writing it houses 150 “patients” that hope to wake up someday.

Whether you think that’s cool or crazy, you can learn more about the technology and process at www.alcor.org.

2. Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK

If you follow space news, you might know the names SpaceX, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and various other space-focused companies. But did you know that Orbital ATK boasts a strong Valley presence?

In fact, it maintains five facilities in the area, including its Flight Systems Group headquarters in Chandler. That facility works on space vehicles, propulsion systems, missile defense systems and aerospace structures.

Combine that with Boeing’s facilities and the work ASU does in satellites and Mars rovers, and the Valley makes a surprising level of contributions to America’s space exploration and defense.

You can learn more about Orbital ATK at www.orbitalatk.com

3. Local Motors

Local Motors Olli

You might know from the news that the Valley plays host to Google’s Waymo self-driving car project. It also recently became the base of operations for Uber’s self-driving car efforts. However, you might not hear much about an equally innovative car company in Chandler called Local Motors.

Local Motors got attention many years ago for its “microfactory” approach. Instead of taking years to design a car in-house for the masses, it collaborates with the public to build limited runs very quickly.

Its first major project was the customizable Rally Fighter off-road vehicle. In the years since it added 3D-printed cars, self-driving vehicles and — soon — drones to its list of accomplishments.

You can learn more about Local Motors, and how to collaborate on your own ideas, at localmotors.com.

4. Brain State Technologies

BRAINtellect 2
World’s Fastest Woman on a Motorcycle Valerie Thompson and her BRAINtellect 2

Another Scottsdale company, Brain State Technologies and its “brain balancing technology” takes some explaining. Basically, non-invasive equipment reads your brain waves, converts those waves to sounds and then plays the sounds back to you through headphones.

Ideally, this process causes your brain to balance its hemispheres and can help reduce insomnia, anxiety, PTSD and other brain-related issues and traumas. The founder, Lee Gerdes, actually developed this system for himself back in ’90s to treat his own PTSD.

The company itself came into being in 2000, and it now provides services to hundreds of treatment centers around the world. An estimated 122,000 people have gone through the process and many of them swear by it. Ongoing scientific research also confirms it can produce benefits.

The company’s latest project is a portable version of the equipment called BRAINtellect 2 that anyone can use in their home. Eventually, Gerdes hopes the system can run off a smartphone.

You can learn more about Brain State Technology’s brain balancing system at brainstatetech.com or brainwaveoptimization.com.

5. TASER International

TASER Headquarters
TASER Headquarters

Everyone knows the name TASER — although few people know it’s an acronym for Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle based on a young adult book from the early 1900s.

The basic technology to stun people through electric shock at a distance originally came from NASA researcher Jack Cover in the ’70s. However, the technology didn’t hit big until brothers Rick and Thomas Smith launched Taser International out of Scottsdale in 1993 and refined the design.

Today, TASER products are the default non-lethal option for police and people interested in self defense. The company also recently launched the business unit Axon, which makes integrated body camera systems for police.

You can learn more about TASER at www.taser.com.

As a bonus, right down the street from TASER you can find the corporate headquarters of Fender Musical Instruments, which came to Arizona in 1991.

– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org