A life well lived
Corwin’s clear vision and deep commitment to transformative innovation in clean energy inspired us all. A brilliant engineer and skillful leader, as well as avid kitesurfer, dancer, and community builder, he showed boundless energy and generosity in all aspects of his life.
Trained as a mechanical engineer and modern and ballet dancer, Corwin held a PhD from Stanford and a BS from the University of Washington. A professional windsurfer from the age of 15 (competing at windsurfing Nationals for 5 straight years), Corwin was also an avid kitesurfer, stand up paddler, nationally-ranked snowboarder, and cyclist. His love for the wind and the elements informed every aspect of his professional life, from his innovations in sporting equipment to his enduring commitment to alternative energy. Corwin’s passion for learning and building was innate; as a child he built toy airplanes and RC cars; by age 12, he was researching laminates and epoxy and building a hydraulic press to make skateboard decks. He learned to be broad-minded and adaptable at an early age, accompanying his parents John Hardham and Joan Chase on extensive world and national travels. As an adult he remained intensely dedicated to his work and to his friends, while ready to embrace new people and ideas.
In 2006,Corwin co-founded Makani Power, a clean energy company focused on harnessing the untapped resource of high-altitude wind. During the six years that Corwin helmed or co-helmed the project, the Makani Airborne Wind Turbine evolved from a soft textile kite powering a generator on the ground to a rigid, high performance wing with onboard generation. Corwin served in nearly every possible role at Makani. In the early days, as CTO, he performed hard-core mechanical, aerospace, and controls engineering. Recently, as CEO, Corwin stoically and with bottomless persistence and skill performed the often thankless tasks of fundraising, investor management, grant writing, strategy, and business development, allowing the technical teams to stay focused and productive. Through it all, Corwin could always be depended upon to be in the shop, sweeping the floor and oiling the lathes along with the rest of the team on cleanup days.
At the time of Makani’s inception, Corwin was a member of Squid Labs, a small but highly productive think tank based in Emeryville, CA, which spawned seven spinoff companies. Corwin served as an advisor and technical contributor to two of those companies, Instructables, an online DIY documentation platform, and Potenco, which created pull-cord generators for use in developing countries. A serial entrepreneur, Corwin had previously co-founded WakeKite, where he developed innovative over-tension release mechanisms to enable safer enjoyment of a completely new sport.
Throughout his life, Corwin possessed a rare ability, and passion, to exist at the nexus of beauty and function. While still in high school, he created a new way of manufacturing precision racing foils, with which he and others captured world and national windsurfing titles. Corwin was known not only for his ability to execute mind-bending technical maneuvers, but to do them with the utmost panache. As a PhD student, Corwin found time in between long passages about the analysis of gravitational waves, to design a beautiful flower logo, with which he distinguished his thesis. He has been known to design elegant women’s footwear, using a computer controlled machine to carve wood into graceful shapes. Recently Corwin enjoyed spending his rare spare hours building a beautiful home in San Francisco and scheming up more lightweight yet durable ways to build stand up paddleboards.
At the risk of sounding cliché, it is impossible to fully capture Corwin within the confines of a few paragraphs. He was a complex person, with many facets, each of which he filled to an extent normally sufficient to describe any single person. He was many things, to many people. An active community builder, Corwin loved to share the company of people, as he did during his studies at Stanford, and subsequently in the several group houses he keystoned in San Francisco.
In the last years of his tragically short life, he found happiness and a soul mate in his close companion and partner, Gia Schneider. In each other’s company they both felt comfortable and at peace, able to be themselves, to take full advantage of every moment of each day.
Corwin’s passing is especially difficult to bear for those left behind, because of the tremendous promise he embodied and enabled, and because of the sudden nature of his departure. With time, perhaps, the heartache will retreat, and we can comfort ourselves with the absolute truth: that his was a life well lived.