September 2009

$13,500 at stake: Send us your Olympus Innovation Awards nominations

The Olympus Innnovation Awards recognize faculty excellence and innovation in higher education. Previous winners include Dr. Michael Camp from The Ohio State University, Dr. Tina Seelig from Stanford University, Dr. Deborah Streeter from Cornell University, Dr. John Ochs from Lehigh University, and Dr. Steven Nichols from the University of Texas at Austin.

Nominate a faculty member now, for these awards:

  • The Olympus Innovation Award ($10,000) recognizes the work of an outstanding faculty member in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship education
  • The Olympus Lifetime of Educational Innovation Award ($2,500) recognizes the sustained contributions of an outstanding faculty member who has devoted his or her career to innovative education
  • The Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award ($1,000) recognizes the work of a faculty member who, early in his or her career, shows outstanding leadership promise in the field of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship education

Nominations close November 20.

IMPACT Indicator

Stanford University, 1999 - $12,500

A running shoe exceeds its useful life and should be replaced when it no longer provides adequate cushioning. One of the major problems runners have is impact-related injury due to worn out shoes. The IMPACT Indicator is a monitor incorporated into a shoe that calculates the use of the shoe and displays its remaining life. The IMPACT Indicator prevents impact-related injuries that arise from using a shoe after it has worn out. The current model uses sensors on the toe and heel of the shoe, and a touch of a button indicates how much life is left in the shoe.

Both the consumer and the manufacturer benefit from the Indicator. The device can help reduce the number of injuries to runners and encourage consumers to purchase more shoes. The athletic shoe market is $14.7 billion annually, with the running shoe market comprising 16%.

The E-Team includes a graduate Product Design student at Stanford and an MBA student at the University of Texas at Austin. The team has support from a Product Design faculty member and two industry mentors, including a board certified sports medicine doctor.


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1999 - $17,970

The Turbohead is a re-engineered turbocharger configuration designed so that the entire mechanism resides inside the head of an engine. This design is cost effective in terms of manufacturing and installation, produces a more efficient and powerful turbo system, and eliminates many of the wear problems existing products have. The Turbohead also creates a larger potential market for turbochargers, as they are normally a specialty item. The team has completed initial feasibility testing and a patent search.

They plan to take their idea to the market by prototyping and testing their design and filing a patent. The team draws on RPI's resources to help start up a business: the Entrepreneurs Club, an Inventor's Studio, and the Rensselaer Technology Park.

Students in the team are mechanical engineering majors, with one major doubling in management. The project idea began in the NCIIA-funded course Inventor's Studio.


University of Colorado Boulder, 1999 - $15,350

The Eye-Lock is a better bicycle lock. With the touch of a button, Eye-Lock enables the automatic unlocking of a bicycle and recoiling of the lock cable. The lock is controlled by an encoded infrared transmitter/receiver, and one click eliminates the usual fumbling with a tiny key into an awkwardly located lock opening.

The idea for the Eye-Lock originated in an engineering and entrepreneurship course. Three mechanical engineers from the course team decided to continue the project.


University of Colorado Boulder, 1999 - $17,100

A "big wall climb" is rock climber terminology for ascending a rock face either for multiple days or for such a long distance that a haul bag is required to carry extra gear. The SUPERHAUL product enables rock climbers to carry heavy supplies and equipment quickly and efficiently when making big wall climbs. Saving time and energy are integral to completing a big wall climb safely. The product is a small, self-contained unit that provides all of the functions of existing products but with greater ease.

The market potential for the product is mainly for avid rock climbers. The product also has applications for search and rescue crews who must haul people and materials up steep inclines, as well as construction crews who must move objects to high, hard-to-access locations.

Four mechanical engineering students work on the SUPERHAUL. The team intends to include a business student from the CU School of Business to strengthen the team in marketing and business plan development. The team plans to prototype the design, patent it, perform a market assessment and create a business plan.

Syringe Disposal Design Team

University of Virginia, 1999 - $20,000

This E-Team developed a syringe disposal system for use by mass inoculation programs, particularly in the third world. Current disposal systems often do not protect users from accidental needle pricks, and the containers are too easy to open, resulting in dangerous reuse of needles. The container will be lightweight, puncture resistant, and very difficult to open once the needles are disposed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) would be the primary user of this technology. The long-term objective of the team is to form a company that will license or produce products that will improve healthcare safety worldwide.

The E-Team is made up of graduate and undergraduate students studying chemical engineering, engineering science, and biomedical engineering.

University of Massachusetts, 1998 - $15,569

The team designed a product to allow participants to engage in a web-based role-playing exercise simulating the presidential election process. The product is a sophisticated database with a web interface that serves as an entertaining and educational simulation, to be used by political science courses and high school civics classes. It would help educators teach about the election process by enabling students to model elections online and manipulate a variety of factors and inputs.

The team was comprised of three graduate students and two undergraduate seniors in the Political Science Department. The team had faculty advisors specializing in political science, electrical engineering, marketing, and computing.

IPD Radar Gun Project

Lehigh University, 1999 - $15,780

Modern athletic teams spend extensive resources to study and minimize uncertainty in player performance. This E-Team is developing a device to test performance and correlate that information with environmental conditions. The device includes data collection hardware ("radar gun," weather station, and computer hardware) and feed collected data through a statistical program relevant to the sport played. This information allows coaches to determine how well players perform in different environmental conditions, providing data on player performance correlated with temperature, humidity, and wind conditions.

No similar coordinated system currently exists, with the main competition to the product being radar guns and weather stations. The components are arranged in a protective, transportable, self-contained, reasonably priced package. The target markets for this product are baseball, softball, tennis, and soccer leagues.

The E-Team members come from each of three colleges at Lehigh University. Students on the team major in economics, marketing, accounting, architecture, computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, finance, and business information systems.

ME 446 - Integrated Design II: Drag Reduction of Tractor-Trailers

Clarkson University, 1999 - $15,500

Lessening the pressure drag on trailers can increase fuel efficiency in long haul semi-trucks. Clarkson University and Composite Factory, Inc., are jointly developing a drag reduction device that could cut fuel consumption by 5%, potentially saving US truckers about $2 billion per year.

Update: This project has spawned several graduate degrees, undergraduate research projects and received a grant from NYSERDA for over $300k. The team also made the news:

The Why Files

Sierra Environmental Analysis Ltd.

University of Nevada - Reno, 1999 - $19,800

The SEAL-Pup is a water quality sampling device capable of taking samples automatically or under operator control at depths of up to 150 feet. The device is highly portable and able to take continuous real-time chemical measurements and water samples. The original design was prototyped in the course Engineering Design/Analysis for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Design of Products.

The team has identified many potential customers interested in using the product, including public agencies who monitor water quality, mining companies who need to remediate lakes they have polluted, public water companies, and environmental agencies. The final design has an operating depth of 1600 feet, acoustic triggering of solenoids, a microcontroller system, lateral thrusters, and video cameras.

Demonstrations of the SEAL-Pup gained interest in future commercial models from the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Navy. The team is made up of electrical engineering students and faculty.