May 2001

Digital Receipt Team

Stanford University, 2004 - $11,000

This E-Team developed a digital receipt system for retail and online stores. The system consists of a credit card-sized smart card with an embedded 1 Mb memory to store receipt data, a card reader/writer for stores, and a card reader/writer for the consumer’s personal computer that allows her to upload receipts from the card, organize them by category, and process them using spreadsheets. For an example of how the system works, take a typical return: the consumer hands the smart card to the cashier, who places it in the reader, finds the correct receipt, and matches it with the store’s receipt. With this device the team is looking to solve hassles with paper receipts, make check-out faster, save businesses money, and give the consumer an easy way to manage purchases.

The E-Team consisted of two electrical engineering undergraduate students and one biomechanical engineering undergraduate. David Kelley, founder and CEO of IDEO and currently a Stanford professor, advised the team.

Chest Protector

University of Miami, 2004 - $11,095

This E-Team developed an enhanced chest protector aimed at little league baseball players. More than any other sport, baseball players are susceptible to sudden cardiac death (SCD) as a result of a baseball hitting the child’s chest, particularly the silhouette of the heart located in the upper-left quadrant. The team built a chest protector that disperses the force of a direct hit over the chest, mostly through extra padding.

Three are three giants in the baseball equipment market: Rawlings, Mizuno, and Wilson. Each offers different chest protectors using different materials, but none offer a protector explicitly aimed at preventing SCD. Their protectors rely on impact absorption, whereas the E-Team’s protector focuses on impact redistribution, with extra layering around the heart.

The E-Team consisted of five biomedical engineering undergraduates, a professor of biomedical engineering, a professor of architecture and design, a local entrepreneur, and a cardiologist (who initially brought the project to the team’s attention).

An Innovation Curriculum: Introduction to Innovation and Innovation Teams

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Major changes are underway at UCCS, which will culminate in the development of a new series of degrees: a Bachelors of Innovation (BI) and a Masters of Innovation (MI). These degrees encompass traditional disciplines, such as computer science and business, but also provide students with an extensive “innovation core” of courses intended to make them familiar with the process of innovation. NCIIA funds provide support for the development and implementation of two elements of these majors: a freshman-level “Introduction to Innovation” course and the central course of the innovation core, the six-term “Innovation Team” course. The first introduces students to innovation processes, problem-solving, teamwork strategies, etc.; the second involves them in a hands-on project in a multidisciplinary team comprised of eight to twenty students, ranging from sophomores to graduate students.

New Elements for International Idea to Product (I2P) Program

Illinois Institute of Technology

The University of Texas at Austin received NCIIA funds in 2003 to further develop their pre-existing Idea to Product Technology Commercialization Program (I2P™). NCIIA funding provided seed money to E-Teams generated by the I2P Competition process to help improve the quality of their products and prototypes and increase the potential for taking their ideas to market; helped faculty initiate an international intercollegiate component of I2P Program; and helped faculty develop a new, innovative Austin Technology Incubator Affiliate (ATI) initiative.

In 2005 NCIIA funded the I2P Program again, this time with money going toward strengthening and institutionalizing the international competition component of the I2P™ program and thus significantly expanding the potential number of E-Teams generated.

The International I2P™ competition is modeled after both the MOOT CORP® competition and the UT Austin I2P™ regional competition. It's designed to be a pre-launch, pre-business plan competition that assesses the market opportunity, technological feasibility, and intellectual property position of innovations from teams representing the leading research universities around the world. The competition has grown from six teams in its inaugural year to thirteen teams this year and will be expanded next year to at least twenty teams. To date, the UT Austin I2P competition, which also focuses on the creation of entrepreneurial ventures grounded in science and technology, has attracted approximately 200 teams made up of a mix of ethnically and gender diverse undergraduate and graduate students from a broad cross-section of UT’s colleges and departments

Multidisciplinary Entrepreneurship Thematic Learning Community (E'ship TLC) - Creating Opportunities for Entrepreneurship Education from Top to Bottom

Babson College

The University of Kansas School of Engineering, in partnership with the Office of Technology Transfer, is implementing a university-wide program in entrepreneurship: the Multidisciplinary Entrepreneurship Thematic Learning Community (E’ship TLC), creating a culture of entrepreneurial thinking across the campus. The E’ship TLC will be open to participation from faculty and students (graduate and undergraduates) across all disciplines. A subset of the students will also be enrolled in entrepreneurship courses that integrate business into subject-specific courses. A part-time administrator will manage the courses and be responsible for publicity across the campus community. Students in new upper level multidisciplinary courses areas will form cross-functional entrepreneurship teams to explore faculty inventions. The E-Teams will evaluate the technology from a science, engineering, legal, and business perspective, creating a strong foundation for commercialization. In addition, faculty inventors will be involved in the entrepreneurial process. Underclassmen in the TLC will interact with students in the advanced courses and learn from their volunteer experiences. The program will initially focus on bioengineering-related disciplines.

Service through Design and Entrepreneurship Certificate Program

Rowan University

Pennsylvania State University’s Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), a student-led organization, was created in 2001 with the goal of providing undergraduate students with design and research opportunities that directly impact the lives of people in developing communities through active collaboration with university partners and host nations. Faculty in the Department of Engineering Design at Penn State are now creating a Service through Design and Entrepreneurship certificate to be offered through the College of Engineering in conjunction with the Entrepreneurship Minor.

Students receive the certificate after successful completion of a three-course series: Entrepreneurship Business Basics, which teaches intellectual property, finance, and marketing; Entrepreneurship and New Product Development, which examines the concept of new product launch within a mainstream company as student teams design, prototype a new product family, and then present the product concept to venture seed fund representatives from companies like General Electric; and Engineering Cultures, Appropriate Technology and Product Design in Developing Communities, which discusses appropriate technology and initiate collaborative team development between Penn State students and host university students working on preliminary problem recognition and design study.

Each year, two to four interdisciplinary E-Teams of four to six members are formed to address an infrastructure or product design problem in a developing community, specifically focused on addressing the needs of individuals living on less than $2 a day. Faculty, practicing engineers, NGO representatives, and community development practitioners work with teams as mentors.

Design for Sustainability: Courses of Study for Electrical Engineers

Stanford University

Waste produced by the disposal of outdated computer systems presents a serious environmental problem. A team of business, engineering, and liberal arts faculty at Auburn University is developing balanced design curricula for junior and senior electrical engineering students that focus on sustainability design for computer equipment through teaching modules incorporated into existing courses and the development of Recycling the Toxic Computer, an elective senior design course. Auburn will also host a nationwide workshop on sustainable engineering curriculum development to disseminate the results of the program at the end of the three-year grant period.

Through modules inserted into laboratory courses, junior-year students learn the social, economic, and environmental impacts of computer system product design and manufacture. Senior-year students have the ability to incorporate sustainability constraints into the design of a computer system product, and seniors taking the elective design course demonstrate the design of a computer system product that meets sustainability requirements and generate a business plan for the product with the goal of bringing it to market.


University of Southern California, 2004 - $19,939

Today, computer users must work with a traditional 2D mouse or trackball to manipulate 3D images, a counterintuitive method that leads to inefficiency and frustration. To solve the problem, the ZDimension E-Team developed a mouse-like peripheral, the ZMouse, which works with 3D autostereoscopic (AS) displays and software already on the market to allow the user to interact comfortably with floating 3D images in mid-air. The images float in front of or behind a special monitor that looks like a standard LC Display.


Tulane University, 2004 - $12,680

With the help of a 2004 Advanced E-Team grant, this Tulane University E-Team created Deflexion, an electronic board game that combines the strategic appeal of chess with modern technology. Players take turns moving Egyptian-themed, mirrored pieces around the playing field, then fire a low-powered laser diode to bounce light off the mirrors and illuminate their opponent’s pieces, eliminating them from the game. The goal is to defeat your opponent by strategically maneuvering pieces so the laser hits the “pharaoh” piece, similar to a king in chess.

Along with being a commercial success, Deflexion (now called Khet) has received significant press and industry recognition. The game was featured at the New York International Toy Fair; named one of Wired magazine’s “supercool” toys for 2005; dubbed “very cool” by Playthings, a toy industry publication; and praised as “innovative” by BusinessWeek. Khet is commercially available through the company’s website ( and select retail outlets around the US.

DigiTails LED Taillights

Drexel University, 2004 - $16,530

The DigiTails E-Team developed replacement taillight assemblies that combine the visual appeal of “Euro” style taillights (consisting of individual red lenses in a chrome housing) with the benefits of LED technology. The first prototype emulated different designs and the beta included software for creating customizable lighting designs. LEDs provide lower power consumption than incandescent lights, lower operating temperature, and a 20x longer lifespan.

The team members were from diverse academic backgrounds in business, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. The team’s advisors and faculty had experience in entrepreneurship and engineering.

Update: The DigiTails team went on to found Spaghetti Engineering, a company built around DigiTails technology. Read a profile of company founder Michael Muhlbaier here.