March 2009

High Efficiency Stove Microenterprise


University of Colorado - Boulder, 2008 - $31,185

Lower respiratory infections are the second leading cause of death in Rwanda.  Many of these deaths can be attributed to indoor air pollution from cooking stoves that can simply be described as indoor campfires.  It is hard to believe that the cost of this deadly wood represents the majority of a Rwandan family’s household income because of the large deforestation problem. To alleviate this problem, students from the University of Colorado at Boulder Engineers Without Borders Chapter designed and implemented a high efficiency stove to better utilize limited resources and provide cleaner more efficient cooking conditions. The stoves are made from all local materials including pumice, an abundant resource in the area with ideal thermal properties.

Summer 2009 Update: After the success of this project and interest from Rwandans, the project is ready to be taken to the next level and converted to a sustainable micro-enterprise, eventually led and owned by Rwandan citizens. This will not only alleviate much of the clear-cutting of trees, but also increase the financial stability in Rwanda.

Below, team member Christie Chatterley talks about the Sustainable Vision workshop she attended, and how it helped.


Working on a stove design.



Affordable Solar Thermal Microgenerator Technology for Rural Cogeneration in Southern Africa

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008 - $47,031

Worldwide 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity or affordable energy solutions. For those living in rural or mountainous locations Diesel generator sets are polluting and require costly fuel; photovoltaic panels have a high up-front cost and high risk of theft. Locally produced solar thermal technology, by lowering costs relative to these alternatives, can facilitate distributed electricity provision and result in increased economic opportunity, extended waking hours for study, time saved from chores, and improved services from the business, heath and education sectors. This directly translates into an overall reduction in poverty, better living conditions at rural institutions, and improved quality of life, while stimulating the local economy and providing jobs. Indirectly, by generating power renewably, the proposed electrification scheme contributes to lowering the risks related to climate change and decreases brushwood collection and land degradation. By using a technology transfer approach and supporting local business development, the Sustainable Vision grantees aim to provide a sustainable, renewable, and affordable energy option for rural locations. Working in conjunction with local partners, including the Government and National University of Lesotho, entrepreneurs and engineers, the team intends to install a pilot system at a rural health care center to serve 50-80 patients/day, arrange technology transfer and training for Lesotho-based partners, and complete a viable business plan for a Solar ORC manufacturing facility within Lesotho to foster ongoing installations at clinics and schools through market-based mechanisms.

Cynthia Lin takes pressure data in a solar ORC test rig.


  • Planet
  • The team has two test sites in place, one in Lesotho at a clinic and the other at Eckerd College. Eleven units have been distributed in the US, Brazil, Mexico, UK, Portugal, Angola, and India. The team won a 100K Energy Prize from Conoco Phillips and $42,500 grant from Constellation Energy.

Engineering a Sustainable Business Model Framework for Scalable Mobile Entrepreneurship in the Developing World

Dartmouth College, 2008 - $39,443

Africa is experiencing a mobile phone revolution. With a 5,000% subscriber growth rate between 1998 and 2003, the phenomenal mobile expansion has already led to a number of unforeseen, unorthodox uses of phones. However, even amidst the excitement of this expansion, there remains a dearth of second-tier growth in the
mobile industry—specifically, the development of services leveraging the infrastructure deployed across the continent for socio-economic good.

This team is going to create a skill-mixing partnership: an exchange of core competencies via a collaborative effort between multi-disciplinary, well-resourced Western engineering students and bright, innovative African technologists. The mobile phone provides an excellent anvil for forging such a partnership due to the typically short product development cycle, low startup costs and the nascent nature of the field. The sustainable vision conveyed in this grant leverages the current underutilization of mobile phones by building bottoms-up applications based on existing user behavior, and in turn generating new ventures by student founders. The initiative will act as a conveyor belt for innovative mobile applications for socio-economic development.

Using computers to create new applications of mobile phones.

Video: March Madness for the Mind on WUSA 9

The NCIIA's March Madness for the Mind is featured on WUSA, Channel 9, serving Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

"This Friday, there's a different kind of March Madness in Washington, DC. Dozens of young inventors from colleges across the country are showcasing their inventions at the Smithsonian for March Madness for the Mind. The event is hosted by The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and will spotlight twelve state-of-the-art innovations designed by the next generation of inventors. Here are a few of the highlights:"

The NCIIA: Promoting Student Inventors

The NCIIA is featured in BusinessWeek: NCIIA: Promoting Student Inventors.

"It's March Madness time, all right. But the competition in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. This annual event, March Madness for the Mind, is organized by the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), a network of more than 200 universities that promote innovation by underwriting and mentoring teams of college student inventors."

Don't miss the slideshow of student E-Teams and their inventions.

March Madness for the Mind

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance will host its annual March Madness for the Mind exhibition today and tonight, March 20th, 2009 beginning at 1:00pm EST at the recently re-opened National Museum of American History, which includes the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. March Madness for the Mind is an opportunity for the nation’s top Excellence and Entrepreneurship Teams (E-Teams)-collaborating groups of college students, faculty and industry mentors who have received NCIIA grants-to unveil their inventions to the public, many for the first time. More than a dozen E-Teams will display their state-of-the-art innovations during the public exhibition, as well as at a private exhibition for conference guests attending the NCIIA’s Thirteenth Annual Meeting.

Walking and Metro Directions

Directions to March Madness for the Mind at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The event will take place tonight, Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 6:30pm. Don't forget to pick up your complimentary Metro pass at the registration desk!

From the Westin to the Smithsonian (25 minutes):

  • Leave the Westin through the main lobby
  • Walk on Jamieson Ave. toward Englhardt Lane
  • Turn left onto Dulany Street and continue on Diagonal Road
  • Turn right to stay on Diagonal Road
  • Turn left at Daingerfield Road
  • Turn left at King Street and continue on to King Street Metro Station
  • Once on the Metro, Take Blue Line from King Street Station towards Largo Town Center Station
  • Get off at the Federal Triangle stop
  • Once you exit the station, walk left through the square until you come to Constitution Avenue
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is across the street.

From the Smithsonian to the Westin (25 minutes):

  • Upon exiting the Smithsonian, return to the metro stop, Federal Triangle
  • Take the Blue Line Federal Triangle towards Franconia Metro Station
  • Get off the metro at King Street Metro Station
  • Upon exiting the train, head downstairs to the King Street exit
  • After exiting the station, take a right onto Diagonal Road
  • Proceed to Duke Street
  • Cross at the first available crosswalk to the other side of Duke Street
  • Take a right onto Jamieson Avenue
  • You will see the Westin on the left at the corner of Jamieson Avenue and Courthouse Square
  • Take a left onto Courthouse Square
  • The entrance to the Westin is directly across the street from the courthouse

Keynote Presentation: Innovation, Skills and Change...the Keys to Leadership in the 21st Century!

Keynote Speaker Nicholas Donofrio, retired IBM Executive Vice President for Innovation and Technology, shares a presentation on Innovation, Skills and Change...the Keys to Leadership in the 21st Century!.

The abstract:

Change is the key to everyone's success, especially in these turbulent and uncertain times. Will it ever stop? Has real innovation (the ability to generate new value) here at the beginning of the 21st century also changed when compared to 20th century innovation? Who has it right? If being an innovative leader is the key to rising standards of living for people and nations, who has the education, skills and capability to be a global leader? Who will lead?

Presentation: A Course on IP and Patent Application Drafting

Paul Swamidass and A. J. Gokcek of Auburn University share a presentation on A Course on IP and Patent Application Drafting presented as part of the Intellectual Property paper track at The NCIIA's Annual Conference which was moderated by Doug Arion of Carthage College.

The abstract:

A new one-credit course (IP and Patent Application Drafting) is planned for offering at Auburn University (AU) jointly by the author (lead teacher) and the university's patent attorney in spring 2009. For this session we intend to present our experiences and findings from the course. The first-of-its-kind course will enable fifteen Auburn University students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs to understand the protection of intellectual property rights, the patenting process, and learn to draft a patent application and submit it to the USPTO. Part of the course will be devoted to a workshop format, where each student will complete a USPTO patent application for one of their ideas/inventions before the end of the semester. The hands-on experience is intended to give them the freedom to grab their own new ideas and protect them through patents as a first step toward commercial exploitation of their IP.

Presentation: From Bureaucratic Tech Transfer to Entrepreneurial Tech Commercialization

Norris Krueger of Max Planck Institute, Jack Brittain of University of Utah, and Dianne Welsh of University of North Carolina Greensboro share a presentation on From Bureaucratic Tech Transfer to Entrepreneurial Tech Commercialization: Cleantech as exemplar presented as part of the Commercialization of Student Ventures paper track at The NCIIA's Annual Conference which was moderated by Mac Banks of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The abstract:

Sixty-plus university spinouts in three-plus years. 94% still alive. Lowest cost per spinout in the US. The "book" on successful technology transfer is to find multiple ways to substitute bottom-up entrepreneurial approaches for top-down bureaucratic mechanisms. However, few programs successfully manage the transition to entrepreneurial mode.

This presentation features the new University of Utah program, where spinouts have skyrocketed (the stats above). TTO Brian Cummings will share the key facets of their multiple entrepreneurial approaches that converged on their current success, supported by theory and evidence from other successful programs that will give the audience critical lessons learned and a deeper understanding of how other institutions can deploy this constellation of entrepreneurial mechanisms. This will include a participatory exercise for the audience as another audience takeaway tool: How do we put entrepreneurs first?

Entrepreneurial mechanisms appear especially useful in sustainable ventures, hence we focus specifically on commercializing cleantech.