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Kent McElhattan, chairman and founder of Industrial Scientific Corp.,  is embarking on a new venture.

McElhattan is launching a new startup, Discovery Robotics Corp., in the former United Cerebral Palsy headquarters at the corner of Neville and Centre avenues in Oakland. He purchased the 21,278 square-foot building for $3 million this month, beating out at least eight other out-of-town bidders, he says.

“We have a swimming pool full of ideas and want to work on those ideas,” says McElhattan. “Our intent is to be a producing company. We want to build robots ourselves.”

Discovery Robotics will focus on research and development of automated industrial safety solutions for some of the world’s most hazardous occupations.

“(At Industrial Scientific) We’re focused on people and deaths from construction buildings,” says McElhattan, who also chairs the National Safety Council in Chicago. “This is what I’ve focused on for years. It’s honorable work and Pittsburgh is a great place to do it.”

The central location, between Pitt and CMU, will give the startup key access to research at both universities. At least two robotic projects are are being considered to start.

McElhattan declined to name his four co-founders except to say they include a Ph.D. electrical engineer, Ph.D. roboticist, Ph.D. physicist and a marketing director.

Discovery Robotics will also collaborate with Startbots, a Pittsburgh robotics accelerator based at AlphaLab Gear that was founded by his son, Josh McElhattan. Starbots is an affiliated program of Industrial Scientific. Both are investors in Discovery Robotics.

“We’re not very interesting right now,” says McElhattan with a chuckle, “but we have a lot of hopes and dreams. Check back in with us in six months after we’ve converted it into something worthwhile.”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...