July 2009

Maroon Biotech

University of Chicago, 2002 - $18,900

Poloxamer-188 (P-188) is a generic, off-the-shelf pharmaceutical compound that has been approved by the FDA as an agent to decrease human blood viscosity prior to transfusions. A research team at the University of Chicago discovered that P-188 also has the unique ability to heal cell membranes: it can seal and repair holes in membranes which, if left untreated, typically lead to cell death. Once the membrane is stabilized, the cell can begin its natural self-healing process. During this healing process, the repaired cells excrete P-188, which is safely removed from the body through the kidneys.

The Maroon Biotech E-Team created a new class of drugs based on the molecular structure of P-188. These new co-polymers could be used to treat human cellular injuries resulting from central nervous system (CNS) injury, heart attack, and stroke.

Halfpipe Helper

University of Colorado at Boulder, 2002 - $11,000

This E-Team developed the Halfpipe Helper, an innovative tool for halfpipe maintenance. The Halfpipe Helper is a specialized tool to shape and maintain snow sport terrains, like snowboard parks. Weighing only four and a half pounds, the tool can cut, shave, rake, shovel, evenly distribute and smooth all snow surfaces. The tool effectively combines the function of a shovel and an asphalt rake. It has an adjustable, locking head that pivots through a wide range of motion, and is moved into place with a sliding collar mechanism, similar to a self-wringing mop.

Tasque E-Team

University of Maryland, 2002 - $9,000

Internet and email technology have led to an increase in teamwork among people in remote locations. Separated by geography, these "distributed teams" cannot rely on impromptu in-person meetings; instead, group distance requires efficient and effective online member communication to complete project work. Miscommunication can lead to missed deadlines, member conflict, and lost opportunities. A strong leader can help coordinate communication efforts; however it's difficult for one person to ensure the communication of an entire team.

In response to the need for effective distributed team communication, this E-Team developed Tasque, a web-based service that facilitates team collaboration through three complementary technologies:

  • Interactive email that enables team members to provide input on assignments, share ideas and submit updates
  • Step-by-Step Wizards to facilitate team building, project development, and progress report creation
  • "Personal Dashboards," which provide team members with an inclusive list of pending responsibilities, including invitations, tasks, open votes, status reports, and Gantt charts.
The Tasque E-Team consisted of two MBA students, an undergraduate in computer science and mathematics, and a PhD candidate in computer science. They worked with a software entrepreneur, the founder of two non-profit companies, and the Manager of New Venture Creation at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

Biocervical Technologies: Cutting Edge Technology for Pre-term Birth Detection

Johns Hopkins University, 2002 - $8,750

Over 400,000 premature births occur each year in the US, accounting for over $6 billion in annual health care spending. Statistics suggest that the number of premature births is rising, despite advances in prenatal care. Premature birth is associated with higher risk of maternal and infant death, and debilitating infant illnesses such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, and vision and hearing impairments. Currently, several tools on the market predict pre-term delivery, however the available diagnostic methods do not function early enough to safely and consistently administer labor-suppressing drugs.

This E-Team developed a cervical bioimpedance system that predicts the onset of birth early enough to safely administer preventative drugs. The system detects very subtle changes in cervical tissue composition, which indicate when the cervix is readying for childbirth. The system is composed of an electrode probe with a disposable sterile plastic tip containing the circuitry necessary to measure bioimpedance.

Update: the team has successfully licensed the technology (details not available).

Updateable Message Personal CD Player - Gen 4

Northwestern University, 2002 - $11,500

This E-Team received an E-Team grant ti develop the X-CD, a system that integrates wirelessly updated messages with recorded music. The X-CD is a portable CD player that receives messages broadcast over FM sub-carrier, stores them in memory, and plays them back before, during, or after any CD played, as appropriate. Listeners receive the X-CD broadcasts, consisting of story capsules, interviews, reviews, and advertisements automatically when they use a properly equipped personal music player. Magazines, television shows and others who advertise to young adult audiences buy air time from X-CD and provide the broadcasts. X-CD players, branded by these sponsors, are offered to magazine subscribers or prospective subscribers. The sponsors, magazines like Rolling Stone or Teen People, or TV shows like MTV, gain access to the young adult market.

The X-CD E-Team created three successful prototypes and used this grant to develop a fourth generation prototype. While the first three prototypes were PC-based, the fourth was built around an embedded microcontroller.

The X-CD E-Team consisted of three computer science undergraduates. They worked with an electrical engineering faculty member and the founder and president of SixtySeven Kilohertz, Inc.

Development of an Eddy Current Door Closer

North Carolina State University, 2003 - $15,000

Conventional door closing devices use springs and hydraulic dampeners to create restoring and damping forces that maintain the desired closed-door profile. But these devices have several problems: potential hydraulic fluid leakage, reduced performance due to dust and temperature, and limited life cycles due to friction between the piston and frame case. To solve these problems, this E-Team developed an eddy current door closer to replace conventional hydraulic door closers.

The eddy current door closer is constructed from passive electromechanical components and uses permanent magnets in conjunction with a rotating copper disk to generate braking torques similar to standard door closing devices. This results in decreased maintenance requirements and environmental concerns due to absence of hydraulic fluid, low cost , and easily adjustable damping force.

The E-Team included two PhD students with backgrounds in mechatronics, electromechanical systems, robust control, and structural vibrations. A faculty advisor with expertise in mechanical engineering supported the students, along with an industry expert.

A Unique Non-invasive Laplacia Electrocardiogram

Louisiana Tech University, 2003 - $15,500

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Conventional non-invasive cardiac diagnostic instruments fail to produce reliable information about atrial activation patterns critical in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. This E-Team developed a Laplacian Electrocardiogram (ECG) mapping system that acts as a quick, cost-effective and non-invasive medical diagnostic tool that helps cardiologists diagnose heart disease by detecting atrial activation patterns.

The multidisciplinary team consisted of two graduate students (one computer science major and one electrical engineering major), one technical advisor, one clinical advisor, one industry expert, and one business advisor.

Torex Application Development

University of Michigan, 2003 - $7,750

In the US, nearly fifty-seven million tons of traditional steel reinforcement bar (rebar) are used every year in the manufacturing of concrete. Torex International (now Polytorx LLC) developed a new steel fiber additive for concrete reinforcement, dubbed Helix. Originally designed for blast and earthquake resistant structures, Helix is toothpick sized, coated metallic wire that has been twisted into a helix shape. When millions of the small wires are dispersed into concrete, they lock into place, forming a strong matrix that increases the concrete's blast and impact resistance up to five times over traditional concrete.

As of 2007, Polytorx is growing rapidly, having exceeded $2 million in sales. In the process, the company has garnered major entrepreneurial awards, including the Michigan Technology Tricorridor Award, a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Grant, and the prestigious Carrot Capital Business Plan Competition. Visit the company's website at helixfiber.com.

Fire Extinguisher Training System (Bullex)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2003 - $15,080

Bullex, launched at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received Advanced E-Team grants in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to develop the Intelligent Training System (ITS), an innovative fire extinguisher training device. The majority of today's live-fire extinguisher training is done by taking a bucket and filling it with kerosene or diesel, and water. After an instructor lights the fire, a trainee is given an extinguisher and told to put it out. This method is expensive, can be dangerous, and often requires a HAZMAT cleanup.

ITS makes fire extinguisher training more efficient by simulating the extinguishing of a real fire, removing costly extinguishant from the equation. First, flames are generated in a clean-burning, propane-fed pan equipped with digital sensors. If users aim properly and hit the sensors, they can quell the fire without the mess. The sensors then give out a reading on how well a trainee used the extinguisher. The device is cleaner, safer, and easier to use than the traditional training method.

Bullex launched successfully in 2003, and now has 60 employees and estimated annual sales of $7.3 million. The company was featured in Fortune Small Business Magazine after making it to the final round of the magazine's national business plan competition, receiving honorable mention. Their customers include the US Navy, Northrop Grumman, Michelin, International Truck, and Trane.

AHS Hydrofoils: It's a New Generation

Case Western Reserve University, 2003 - $18,000

Recreational power boats consume a large amount of fuel, with a typical thirty-foot boat yielding efficiencies of only two miles per gallon. The hydrofoil, a wing-like device that extends under the boat and lifts the hull out of the water, reduces drag and can potentially double the miles per gallon efficiency while improving seaworthiness and aesthetic appeal.

The AHS Hydrofoil E-Team developed a retractable hydrofoil system that increases the fuel efficiency of cruiser-type pleasure boats up to fifty feet in length. Retractable foils can be lifted out of the water when not in use, enabling easier cleaning, shallow water navigation, and the option of cruising in displacement mode. AHS is the first company to develop and produce a retractable hydrofoil system.