The Invention Project is an extension of the Invention and Innovation Project, which received a Course & Program Development grant in the December 1995 cycle to support IIT's innovative curriculum. The program has advanced considerably since the award of its first NCIIA grant. The program generated the Advanced E-Team Automotive Ozone Pollution Fighter, which won the BF Goodrich Invention Award in the undergraduate division; Professor Ruiz was invited to speak about the E-Team course before the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago; the program was awarded a grant from the US Department of Education for curriculum development and dissemination of the "Invention Center" concept, providing more resources for E-Teams; IIT is establishing E-Teams into all levels of its undergraduate program and the university is renovating a 30,000 square foot building for the "Invention Center". With the NCIIA Level II grant, the Invention Project class offered continued support for the development of E-Team projects in the class, and for equipment for the students.
With NCIIA grant funding, a new product design course was created at the University of Nevada/Reno by Professors M.S. Fadali and R.C. Barnes. By combining EE 491 Senior Design and MGRS 487 Entrepreneurship, the Entrepreneurship and Senior Design course prepares students for today's marketplace. Within the course, multi-disciplinary groups of engineering and business students form companies and are asked to build a product and investigate its market potential. To provide students with a concise but clear representation of the organization required to accomplish this task, students use the "Hierarchical Process Modeling" (HPM). HPM requires the collection of considerable information, yielding insights into the operation and potential of an organization as a whole. NCIIA funding provided students with HPM software and equipment, prototype development money, and legal assistance with patent searches.
Springfield Technical Community College is developing a new course,
E-Tech E-Teams, to generate student E-Teams. Within the course, E-Teams conduct research on engineering technologies and analyze the findings; carry out experiments in product development; and then identify, create, and market new products. The content of the course curriculum includes mathematics, written/oral communication, historical aspects of design, scientific principles and business knowledge. E-Teams work with entrepreneurs from the on-campus technology business incubator in the areas of telecommunications and optics. The courses and materials developed at STCC are used as the basis for a model for a technical entrepreneurship curriculum to be offered to a consortium of State Community Colleges.
This E-Team originated from the Ethanol Vehicle Challenge sponsored by the United States Department of Energy, General Motors Corporation, and Natural Resources Canada. Ethanol is a cleaner burning fuel than gasoline, and a renewable source of energy. A significant problem with the fuel is that engines fueled with a high percentage of ethanol do not start well at low temperatures. The technology that Cedarville began to investigate was a device that reformulates ethanol into ether and water since ether is highly combustible at low temperatures.
The Cedarville team later discovered a better approach than the ether/water solution. Ethanol motor fuel is "contaminated" with 15% gasoline to make it toxic so that the liquor tax does not apply. The gasoline can be recovered or separated by distillation and then used for the cold start. There are many advantages to this system, as it is less volatile than ether and therefore safer. The distillation system requires much less maintenance than a catalytic reformulation device.
The E-Team for this project comes from a larger team of twenty-nine members who competed in the Ethanol Vehicle Challenge. Team members have skills in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemistry and they have established several working relationships with industry and suppliers
Mechanical Engineering 452: Design Synthesis is an existing senior design course at University of Nevada/Reno. In the past, the course has focused on teaching students the fundamentals of product development. With NCIIA funding, the course has been revised to include product innovation, elements of entrepreneurship and invention, and early stage E-Teams, modeled after Professor John Kleppe's well-structured Electrical Engineering E-Team class at UNR. Each E-Team functions as a start-up company, creating their own organizational structure, and submitting a pseudo-business license. The teams then construct a proposal detailing the team's ideas and begin product development. Student teams compete within the class and are evaluated on their commercial potential as well as their technical content.