July 2009

Interactive Guest Paging System

Florida Institute of Technology, 2004 - $11,500

This E-Team developed the Interactive Guest Paging System (IGPS), a new restaurant pager that allows the customer to play games, view the menu, and check on the estimated waiting time while waiting to be seated. The system consists of handheld pagers with video screens and buttons wirelessly connected to a base station equipped with a touch screen, mouse, keyboard, pager charging bay, software to update the menu, and a wireless transceiver.

The team, which consisted of five undergraduate electrical engineering majors and one business administration undergraduate, planned to target casual dining chains such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, etc.

Wireless Crop Protection

University of California, Berkeley, 2004 - $15,900

This E-Team developed a wireless frost protection system for California vineyards. When the temperature in vineyards reaches frost levels (38-40 degrees), the system automatically turns on frost-prevention equipment and alerts the field manager of any trouble. The system consists of temperature-monitoring Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) deployed in the field, a computer interface showing the field manager a map of the vineyard and the temperature at each WSN, and ultra-bright LEDs in the field acting as beacons that communicate system operation and temperature zones, allowing a field manager to drive around and gauge vineyard condition from afar.

The current method of protecting crops from frost is simple and effective, but antiquated: when temperature dips, an alarm wakes the field manager, who drives around the vineyard checking thermometers and manually activating wind generators, which pull in warm air from higher elevations. Field managers usually do not go back to sleep to ensure no problems arise with the generators, leading to extreme sleep deficiency during frost spells. The E-Team's system automatically turns on the generators and allows the field manager to check on their operation remotely.

The E-Team consisted of two mechanical engineering PhD students, a mechanical engineering graduate student, an MBA candidate, and an industrial design student. Advisors to the team included the director of the Management of Technology program at UC Berkeley, a winegrowing manager for Gallo Vineyards, a viticulturalist, and a product design and strategy consultant.

Development and Commercialization of Novel Linear Displacement Sensor (Sentrinsic)

Georgia Institute of Technology, 2004 - $14,800

This E-Team developed a new sensor technology, the Non-contacting Resistance Displacement Transducer (NRDT). Used primarily in the metalworking, military/aerospace, and automotive markets, displacement sensors allow accurate control of everything from robotic arms to manufacturing assembly lines. The dominant sensor on the market today is the Linear Variable Displacement Transducer (LVDT), which, while precise and robust, is expensive due to its complex structure. While researching an unrelated problem, this E-Team came up with the NRDT, a device that offers far better performance than LVDTs at a fraction of the cost. NRDT's advantage lies in its simple design, allowing the device to get less expensive as it gets smaller, while still delivering optimal performance. LVDTs, on the other hand, become more expensive as they get smaller.

Update: After winning first place in the "Most Fundable" category of the 2005 Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition, the NRDT team took its product to market. They have formed a company, Sentrinsic (intrinsic sensing), have two patents pending, have received over $150k in funding, and made their first sale in April 2006.


Pennsylvania State University, 2004 - $6,000

This E-Team developed the Shelton Wing in Ground Effect (SWIG) vehicle, a type of airplane/boat that skims the surface of water. Flying near the ground reduces drag and increases lift, allowing Wing In Ground (WIG) vehicles to move at high speeds while consuming little fuel. However, traditional WIG vehicles have significant stability and control problems, causing frequent wrecks and preventing them from achieving commercial success. Computerized flight controls have solved the stability problems of large WIG vehicles, but are too costly to be practical for small WIG vehicles. Three-axis airplane-like controls solve the stability problem as well, but require special pilot training, creating a barrier to wide commercialization. To solve these problems, this E-Team innovated the WIG, adding forward wheels to the wings (skis for water operation) that stay in light contact with the surface. The wheels balance the pitching of the vehicle, creating a reliably safe, fast, and fuel-efficient transport.

The E-Team consisted of two senior finance majors, a senior astrophysics major, a senior advertising/public relations major, and a senior aerospace engineering student with pilot experience. Advisors to the team included three professors of aerospace engineering, a patent attorney, and a financial consultant.

The Wi-Fi Enabled Portable Internet Radio

Case Western Reserve University, 2004 - $18,500

This E-Team developed a Wi-fi-enabled portable internet radio. The device is a standard MP3 player with the added ability to access internet radio through existing Wi-fi networks. The operating system for the device has a plug-in that is essentially a streamlined web browser with access to one internet site, created by the team, that provides links to all available internet radio stations (estimated at 10,000 in 2002).

There are no portable internet radio devices on the market. Satellite radio is the only similar service; satellite radio, however, offers 122-125 channels depending on the provider, and has content very similar to traditional radio. On the other hand, thousands of internet radio stations are in existence, offering a much more diverse selection of music.

More success for Sproxil, the anti-counterfeit drug technology company

Sproxil, a 2007 NCIIA E-Team grantee developing cellphone technology to combat the use of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria and Ghana, has been awarded $10,000 by the Clinton Global Initiative University. Ashifi Gogo, Sproxil's lead technologist, also received an oustanding commitment award.

Ashifi is being granted $10,000 towards materials to create the item-unique coding for one million drug labels and to offset the costs of SMS texts for consumers.

Read about the award, including an interview with Ashifi, here.

The Helping Hand

Rowan University, 2004 - $14,395

This E-Team developed The Helping Hand, a holding device for writing instruments designed for individuals with limited hand function. The device consists of an ergonomically designed, ambidextrous top shape that lets the hand rest in its natural position, a clasp for the writing instrument, and a base plate with roller bearings. The device naturally sits in the "up" position, and, through the use of a light spring, is pushed down by the weight of the person's hand when writing. The person uses forearm and shoulder movements to write, and when ready to move to another spot on the paper, simply lifts up the arm and rolls the device across the paper.

Converting Coconuts into Value-Added Products in Developing Countries

Baylor University, 2004 - $17,500

This E-Team is working toward establishing profitable, sustainable, coconut-based business ventures owned and operated by poor people living within ten degrees latitude of the equator, where coconut trees thrive. The team is researching the marketability and effectiveness of four coconut-based products: bio-diesel (from coconut oil), pig and chicken feed (from the white "meat"), particle board (from coconut shells), and anti-erosion matting (from the fuzzy fibers on the coconut shell). The team has already made bio-diesel for rural electrification using diesel generators, and demonstrated that pigs and chickens will eat and prosper on coconut meat. With NCIIA funding the team is developing simple, affordable technologies to separate the coconut's meat, shell, and fuzz and convert them into feed, particle board, and matting.

The E-Team consists of two undergraduates in engineering, one graduate in engineering, and two MBAs. The distinguished professor of engineering at Baylor, as well as the head of the department of mechanical engineering at Papua New Guinea Technical University, are team leaders. Advisors to the team include two professors of management and entrepreneurship at Baylor.


Early Detection of Acute Renal Failure

Johns Hopkins University, 2004 - $12,000

This E-Team developed a new device designed for the early detection of acute renal failure (ARF). The device uses laser technology and Raman spectroscopy to provide data on metabolite excretion rates in near real-time (high levels of metabolite excretion are indicative of ARF). The device enables the detection of ARF in hospitalized patients up to 48 hours earlier than current detection methods. The detection of other biomarkers using this device is also possible, making the device useful in aiding with a number of clinical diagnoses.

ARF is seen in 5% of all hospitalized patients, and 4-15% of all patients who undergo cardiovascular surgery. It accounts for 30,000 deaths per year. Current detection methods are not effective in providing early detection of the disease, which is essential to effective treatment. By providing early detection capabilities, this device can give healthcare providers a jump start on effectively treating ARF.

EEG Keyboard

Johns Hopkins University, 2004 - $14,400

This E-Team developed the EEG Keyboard, a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) typewriter system capable of translating electroencephalogram signals generated from electrical activity in the brain into characters on a screen. Electrodes are attached to the user's scalp, and he or she chooses characters either by focusing on a certain row or column in a flashing six-by-six matrix or by staring at a region of the screen flashing at a certain known frequency. Initially the product was targeted at the Locked-In Syndrome (LIS) community--individuals with paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body, leaving them virtually unable to communicate.

The E-Team consisted of two professors of biomedical engineering (one of which won the 2003 BCI competition), eight biomedical engineering undergraduates, and three faculty advisors: one from neurology, one from biomedical engineering, and one from business.