September 2009

Fast Company story: Eco-designs that are reducing waste

Check this story from Fast Company about the eco-designs that are 'reimagining the detritus of our daily lives.' The list includes former NCIIA E-Team Ecovative Design and their 'Ecocradle' packaging material.   



Stephen Schiffman

Stephen Schiffman has been a member of the faculty of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering since its founding, and now serves as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. He holds a joint appointment as Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at both Olin and Babson Colleges. He served as dean of the undergraduate program at Babson College in Wellesley, MA from 1994-2002. A faculty member at Babson since 1986, he is also the architect of the revised Babson undergraduate curriculum, which was launched in the fall of 1996. In 1997, the Pew Charitable Trusts recognized this effort by selecting Babson for a Pew Leadership Award for renewal of undergraduate education. In 2002, for its work on reinventing undergraduate business education, Babson was selected as the recipient of the TIAA-CREFF Hesburgh Award. Stephen holds two degrees from M.I.T.: an S.B. in mathematics and an S.M. in management, as well as a Ph.D. in mathematics from Dartmouth College. Prior to joining the faculty at Babson College, he worked at the Digital Equipment Corporation and taught at the University of Colorado and Colorado College.


Learn about the 2014 BMEStart competition winners

The world needs more effective, functional and affordable technology solutions to clinical medical problems. NCIIA's second annual BMEStart competition recognizes undergraduate excellence in biomedical innovation. The competition is the first in the United States designed specifically for undergraduate biomedical and bioengineering students.

By generating more activity and interest in this field locally, we can stimulate the invention of medical technologies and devices that are adopted as clinical solutions.

Prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 will be awarded.

In addition, now in its second year, NCIIA is partnering with TREAT (Center for Translation of Rehabilitation Engineering Advances and Technology) to honor excellence in Assistive and Rehabilitation Technologies. You could win a $1,000 cash prize!

TREAT is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, collaborative consortium between corporate, educational and non-profit entities providing infrastructure support and expert consultation to researchers and innovators interested in the translation and commercialization of rehabilitation research applications.


BMEStart competition timeline

  • Submission deadline: Friday, May 23, 2014
  • July: Judging of entries
  • End of July: Finalists are notified
  • September: Awards will be announced at the 2014 BMES Annual Meeting

Apply and tell us about:

  •  A health-related technology
  •  That is invented by undergraduate students
  •  Which addresses a real clinical need

Competition entries will be judged on the following:

  • technical, economic and regulatory feasibility
  • contribution to human health and quality of life
  • technological innovation
  • potential for commercialization


Additional information

Please note: Cash prizes will be disbursed to each of the winning team's departments to be allocated at the discretion of the faculty advisor.


BMEStart sponsors

The BMEStart competition is sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) with support from The Lemelson Foundation, in partnership with IEEE EMBS, the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering Programs.


Commenter Thingum

Cool technology file: the MarrowMiner

More than just a great name, the MarrowMiner may revolutionize, in terms of efficiency and cost, the harvesting of bone marrow and the stem cells bone marrow contains.

Inventor Daniel Kraft recently described the MarrowMiner at a TED seminar. Watch the video here.

In 2002, the NCIIA funded a Stanford University E-Team to develop a new device for harvesting marrow - the MarrowMiner. As the company StemCor Systems, the team has moved the MarrowMiner into clinical trials.



Find out about Stanford University's biodesign fellowships

Stanford University will host an informational session on its biodesign fellowship program on Monday, September 28. The session will be held 6-7:30 pm in the Clark Center Auditorium.

Read more about the session here.

Request more information.

March Madness for the Mind 2010


March Madness for the Mind (renamed Open Minds in 2011) is the acclaimed annual exhibition which showcases innovations from NCIIA's top student teams. The exhibition takes place each year during NCIIA's annual conference, and is an opportunity for student teams to demonstrate their products and receive local and national media coverage. 10-15 teams are selected to participate in this high profile exhibition, which involves an evening exhibition for NCIIA conference attendees as well as an exhibition open to the general public.

Interested in applying for Open Minds 2011 in Washington, DC? Read the guidelines!

Exhibiting Student Teams in 2010

  • Anza

    Brown University

    Anza (meaning "Start" in Swahili) is a technology-focused international development company that sells low-cost, high-utility products made from recycled materials to villagers in rural Africa. Anza, which currently sells solar cookers made from recycled plastic bags in East Africa, is now developing a cart for transporting water and other items, such as firewood and produce. By designing a wheel from upcycled automobile tires and a frame from low-cost, locally available materials (including bamboo, wood, and rubber lashings cut from old tires themselves), the cart can carry over 200 pounds of water and will retail for under $10.

    The Anza cart opens up the potential for small-scale farmers to collect enough water to irrigate a small kitchen vegetable plot. Due to the low supply of off-season vegetables, a simple 100-200 acre plot irrigated with the Anza cart could enable a family to earn between $150-$300 in supplemental income per year and pull themselves out of poverty.
  • ApneAlert

    Northwestern University

    A popular alternative to incubator care for premature infants in developing areas is kangaroo mother care (KMC), a technique in which the infant is kept on the caregiver's chest at all times. While KMC is accepted as a valid alternative to incubator care by the World Health Organization, premature infants remain at risk for apnea when the caregivers are sleeping or distracted and therefore unable to monitor breathing.

    This E-Team is developing the ApneAlert, a low-cost, KMC-compatible apnea detection system. The device detects apnea by monitoring signs of sufficient breathing, and if an apnea episode is detected, an alarm will be activated. In addition, data can be stored and accessed easily, allowing further detailed evaluation.

    Applications of the ApneAlert can even be extended beyond KMC practice. Many exciting opportunities are currently under development.
  • Banyan Environmental

    Brown University

    While compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) last longer and use much less electricity than standard incandescent light bulbs, they also contain 3-5 mg of volatile mercury per lamp. Mercury exposures are anticipated to rise as a result, and this Brown University E-Team, incorporated as Banyan Environmental, Inc., is looking to combat them. Brown University researchers identified a form of elemental selenium (nSe) with the ability to capture mercury vapor, a finding that was widely reported in the news in the summer of 2008 (New York Times, Discovery, etc.), and Banyan is now developing user-friendly disposal and remediation methods to minimize accidental mercury exposures from fractured or broken fluorescent lamps, including box liners for CFL packages and shipping/recycling containers, consumer clean-up kits, air cleaning products for large spills, and dental office products. The company’s mission is to provide a safer environment through cost-effective technologies tailored to customers' needs.
  • Bombyx Technologies

    Cornell University

    Each year 7 million people suffer from eye injuries caused by trauma, disease, infection, or surgery. Eye wounds are extremely painful and can cause vision loss. The most severe incidences can take months to heal and may even result in blindness. Bombyx Technologies in collaboration with Cornell University is developing a transparent bandage that rapidly heals eye wounds. The bandage resembles a contact lens and when placed on a damaged eye it relieves pain and protects from further damage. Most importantly, the bandage regenerates and heals damaged tissue while dissolving naturally over a few days. No other regenerative eye bandage exists today. The material is completely unique, patented, inexpensive to produce, and reaches a half a billion dollar US market. In the future, this material has to potential to treat other wounds and even be used as a diagnostic tool to help identify diseases.
  • AYZH, Inc.

    Colorado State University

    AYZH is a new venture taking a for-profit approach to developing, commercializing, and scaling low-cost, high quality products that rural women want and need to help improve their standard of living. The first two products AYZH is bringing to market, JANMA and SHEBA, are focused on women’s health. JANMA is an inexpensive ($2) clean birth kit intended to reduce maternal and infant mortality. SHEBA is an innovative household water filter targeted specifically at women in rural Indian communities. It consists of an internal filtration system that can be customized according to local needs.
  • Chemotherapy Preparation and Delivery Device

    University of Iowa

    The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 5.5 million healthcare workers (pharmacists, nurses, technicians, and others) are exposed to toxic chemotherapy pharmaceuticals in the workplace. NIOSH confirms the health risks from these exposures include cancers, liver/kidney damage, infertility, miscarriages, birth defects, and congenital malformations. Independent research shows current products fall short in addressing all the market needs, with many users complaining current devices are: ineffective at eliminating exposure, difficult to use, error-prone, inefficient, and costly.

    This E-Team, incorporated as J & J Solutions, is an emerging medical device company that has developed innovative technology to optimize safety, increase efficiency, and reduce the cost of preparing and administering chemotherapy pharmaceuticals. Hospital pharmacies and oncology clinics create a $500 million U.S. market potential, with a current market opportunity near $100 million and growing over 20% annually. The Company has pending patents, working product, proven technology, strong management, and commitments from cancer centers across the country.
  • LoChlorine

    University of California, Berkeley

    Chlorination is a cheap and safe method to disinfect water that actively continues to disinfect for several days, unlike other methods that cannot guard against biological recontamination. Programs in the developing world using chlorination at the household level have seen water-borne illness decrease by 22-84%, but have faced issues with dosing errors, leading to under-chlorinated or over-chlorinated water. In Kenya, simple community chlorine dosers increased chlorine usage from 8-61%; however these dosers were limited in their ability to adapt to different volumes of water.

    LoChlorine has developed two products, the LoChlorine Producer and LoChlorine Doser, which aim to safeguard family health by improving both access to and the performance of chlorination. The LoChlorine Producer is a local method of chlorine production that yields a reliable concentration of chlorine for pennies using local materials and human power. The LoChlorine Doser is unique in its ability to automatically and appropriately dose arbitrary volumes of water. The design has no moving parts, uses no electricity, and could be mass-manufactured for less than ten dollars.
  • Enhancing Bio-Morphological Helmet

    Michigan Technological University

    Today’s standard football helmet design includes a hard outer shell, protective foam layer, and comfort foam layer resting on the head. An impact occurring directly to the hard shell is distributed over the padding, which deforms in compression. This works well for direct impacts, protecting against concussion, but doesn’t perform as well for indirect or rotational impacts, since the padding is relatively stiff with respect to the shear forces. This E-Team is developing the Enhanced Bio-Morphological Helmet Layer, an improved design better able to withstand indirect impacts. The design of the helmet layer imitates the protection system of the human brain i.e. the scalp and skull. The scalp is simulated by a viscoelastic material sandwiched between the outer shell and an inner composite shell mimicking the skull. The layer, which can be inserted into a helmet in addition to the regular helmet liner, is being designed for football, lacrosse and motorcycle helmets.
  • Universal Joint

    San Jose State University

    This E-Team is looking to solve three interrelated problems in Lebialem, Cameroon with products derived from bicycle parts. Most people in Lebialem earn $2 a day, primarily from agriculture, which requires people to walk 20-40 kilometers to get to market bringing only what they can carry. While there’s a longstanding metalworking industry in the region, it’s currently on the decline. The E-Team is developing three products, derived mostly from old bicycles, to help stimulate the metalworking industry and overcome the first two problems: the Market-Cart, the Bamboo Backpack and the Universal Joint Assembly (a steel joint that can be the central unit for other products). The team’s goal is for families to increase their incomes by at least 30% in the first six months of ownership.
  • LifeServe Innovations

    Lehigh University

    The emergency surgical airway, or emergency tracheotomy, is a critical procedure learned by every medical professional as a last resort procedure to gain direct access to the trachea of patients under respiratory distress. In the most urgent emergency situations, a cricothyroidotomy (cricothyrotomy) is considered the procedure of choice, although this is not an effective long-term airway and can result in severe complications. In less urgent situations, it is preferable to have a surgeon perform a definitive tracheotomy (tracheoestomy) in difficult airway patients whenever possible.

    This E-Team, incorporated as LifeServe, is developing a product line for critical care airway management using a patent-pending, minimally invasive technique called the SMART (Seldinger-Modified Airway Rescue Tracheotomy) Emergency Airway Technique. The team has developed three novel airway devices for its product line: The Cobra: SMART Percutaneous Tracheostomy Kit, The Viper-Cric Emergency Percutaneous Cricothyrotomy Kit, and The Fang: Transtracheal Catheterization Device. These devices are designed to improve outcomes for these procedures and serve previous unmet needs in the emergency airway market, including pediatric applications and the ability to perform a definitive emergency tracheostomy under non-ideal conditions in the hospital and in the field.
  • Human-powered Nebulizer

    Marquette University

    A nebulizer is a device that delivers aerosolized liquid medicine deep into the lungs. Commerical nebulizers use electric compressors to maintain a constant rate of air flow, and while this is effective, it presents a problem in the developing world where electricity is often unavailable. At the same time, chronic respiratory diseases and acute lower respiratory infections are the third major cause of morbidity and mortality in the developing world.

    This E-Team is developing a human-powered nebulizer (HPN) to replace the electric compressor with a leg-powered source of air flow. The HPN is a two-piston system, with each piston connected to a pedal. Stepping on the pedal generates air flow from the pistons, and the flow is dampened by a one-liter plastic bottle. The idea has been tested and confirmed as a workable low-cost alternative to traditional compressor-based nebulizers.
  • OrthoIntrinsics

    Rice University

    OrthoIntrinsics is a medical device venture positioned to be a leader in the orthopedic space focused on hand- related disorders. For initial market entry, OrthoIntrinsics is targeting carpal tunnel syndrome; this affliction accounts for 500,000 surgeries and costs society $2 billion dollars each year. However, 20% of surgeries are unsuccessful. Often times carpal tunnel manifests in the weakening of intrinsic hand muscle strength (IHMS). OrthoIntrinsics’s first product, PRIME (Peg Restrained Intrinsic Muscle Evaluator), is a medical device that provides the first method to accurately, reliably, and directly measure IHMS. The current gold standard, manual muscle testing, involves an examiner physically estimating a subject’s strength by feel on a 0-5 scale. This method lacks sensitivity to clinically significant change and reports high bias. PRIME has been validated in clinical studies at two leading hospitals and the technology has been highlighted in international conferences, boasts three pending peer-reviewed publications, and has been featured in prestigious media sources such as Mechanical Engineering Magazine and Medical Device Daily. As a true platform technology, PRIME can be expanded to spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, and other neuromuscular disorders.
  • OsmoPure

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

    This E-Team is developing OsmoPure, a low-cost water purification device for developing countries based on simple membrane filtration technology. While there are a number of water filtration devices being marketed to the poor, many of them don’t work in murky water (they get easily clogged), often require a large energy input in order to work (e.g., hand pumping), and fail to remove all contaminants. OsmoPure is a compact, cartridge-based, multi-stage water purification system. To produce potable water, the user fills a plastic bottle with dirty water, screws on the purifier like you would screw on a cap and squeezes the bottle to dispense clean water. When the filter looks dirty, the user simply shakes the fluid inside to remove debris.

    The purifiers are meant for plastic bottles that exist currently as rubbish in the target areas, cutting production and distribution costs and creating an environmentally friendly solution to the global water crisis.
  • Polytech Waterbag

    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

    Providing people with clean drinking water is one of the biggest challenges following a natural disaster, when thirst can force survivors to drink contaminated water. Currently, relief agencies and government aid workers deliver five-gallon jugs of water, which is a costly and slow undertaking. Alternatives, like mobile treatment units, require technicians, setup time, and provide only a few, centralized water sources.

    This E-Team is developing a new way to ensure people have access to safe, clean drinking water after a disaster strikes: the Polytech Waterbag (Waterbag). The Waterbag is a ten-liter plastic bladder equipped with carrying straps and an integrated filter with a dispensing port. It’s designed to be used with Procter & Gamble’s PUR® chemical treatment packets; by using the packet along with the filter, particles and pathogens are removed to provide complete water treatment. The Waterbag has other integral features, including: a wide mouth for easy filling in shallow streams, a sediment trap to prevent recontamination, and baffles to enhance mixing. Waterbags are twenty times more compact than five-gallon water jugs to ship, and can treat enough water to supply a family of four for up to ten days.
  • Solar Ease

    University of Pittsburgh

    While solar energy is an attractive option to provide green energy, it remains burdened by high installation costs and has not been widely adopted. Part of the problem is the physical process of installation: solar panels require mounting brackets, outside breakers and ground connections, and through-holes for the wiring. This E-Team is developing a solar panel system that utilizes novel wireless energy transfer technology (WiTricity) to transmit solar power from outside panels to storage units inside, eliminating the need for cable connections through walls, interior/exterior wiring, and structural modifications. Reducing cost, complexity, and long term investment risk normally associated with solar installation will encourage adoption of this “green” source of energy, coinciding with government initiatives and energy efficiency programs.
  • OneBreath

    Stanford University

    The recent H1N1 pandemic ignited concern in the healthcare community over the preparedness of our nation’s healthcare system in the event of a mass critical care emergency. If a 1918-like flu pandemic were to occur today, millions of people could die from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a common consequence of severe influenza. Many of these deaths could be prevented by placing the patient on a ventilator, but the US doesn’t have enough ventilators to support patients with respiratory distress in even a mild flu pandemic. With greater than 90% of the nation’s ventilators in active use and a cost of $6,000-$60,000 per machine, it’s cost prohibitive to stockpile enough ventilators to meet the projected need in a pandemic. Further, most ventilators in use today are ill-equipped for use in an emergency, where electricity and oxygen are limited and portability and durability are critical. Looking outside the US, many countries face a chronic shortage of ventilators, even in the absence of a pandemic. For example, in the US there are approximately 205,000 ventilators for a population of 300 million, but in India, where the population exceeds 1.1 billion, there are 35,000 ventilators available.

    This E-Team is developing an extremely low-cost ventilator designed for acute respiratory distress patients in low-resource, pandemic and emergency environments. To fill the need in all cases, the device is low-cost ($300), rechargeable, portable, and disposable.
  • Motorized Physical Therapy Chair

    Cesar Chavez High School

    Each year, NCIIA welcomes a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam to participate in March Madness for the Mind along with the exhibiting E-Teams. The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam initiative is a national grants program designed to excite the next generation of inventors and problem solvers through hands-on learning, while encouraging an inventive culture in schools and communities. This InvenTeam, Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, Arizona will design a fully adjustable motorized chair for medically fragile individuals to be used primarily for physical therapy. The chair will accommodate patients weighing between 40 and 150 pounds and have motorized platforms for the upper arm, forearm, thigh, lower leg, and torso. These supports will move through daily programmed ranges of motion specifically prescribed for each individual, increasing the patients’ flexibility and mobility. The prototype will cost between $3,500 and $4,000, which is within the price range of similar currently available devices.

The Competition

Student teams participating in 2010 created short videos that told the story of their innovation. These videos were open for public viewing and voting March 8-19, 2010 and over 3,000 votes were cast. Watch all the videos here.

The winning team was:

OsmoPure won $800 to help advance its project.

The other two finalists were:

  • The Enhancing Bio-Morphological Helmet from Michigan Technological University Watch the video
  • The Human-powered Nebulizer from Marquette University Watch the video



GlobalResolve: Development of the Twig Light

Arizona State University, 2009 - $16,000

GlobalResolve (GR) is a program at Arizona State that starts village-based ventures in developing countries by introducing sustainable technologies that address economic and health issues. One of those technologies is the Twig Light, a low-cost, sustainable light source. It consists of a wafer-type thermoelectric generator sandwiched between the upper and lower portions of a small box. The upper section is a small combustion chamber in which the user puts small pieces of wood (twigs) to be burned. The lower section sits on the ground or in a few centimeters of water. When the burning wood heats the upper chamber, the temperature difference between the two sections powers the thermoelectric generator, which powers the lights.

An alpha prototype has been developed and tested. With NCIIA funding the team will refine the Twig Light design, test it again, and distribute twenty prototypes to villages in Malawi and Ghana where they’ve worked previously. After a year of field testing they’ll interview villagers about the light, develop a final design, and establish manufacturing capability and supply chains in Malawi and Ghana.


In 2010, the Twig Light team established a company, Daylight Solutions, LLC.   Ghanaian partners include one company (Amstar Inc.), an NGO (The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, CEESD) and Nana Afaokwa, the paramount chief of the Domeabra region in Ghana.

The students in Ghana have formed an NGO (The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, CEESD)

The project is moving from the research phase into a venture with the Ghanaian partners. The first 100 commercial prototypes will be manufactured in the US to perfect the process, possibly this year, in a manufacturing cell consisting of micro-CNC equipment. This cell will either be shipped to Ghana or replicated in that country. The initial manufacturing location will be in Domeabra, a village near Kumasi. Plans are to expand to Cameroon and Kenya in a year.

Story about Twiglight

Engineering for Change (Nov 2010)




Development of a Dynamic EUS Needle: Improving the efficacy of endoscopic needle and noninvasive surgical procedures

University of Virginia, 2009 - $19,900

Advancements in endoscopic technology have significantly widened the scope of possible procedures, going from being able to just look inside the body to being able stage cancer, drain pseudocysts and more. But, despite the success of endoscopic technology, doctors often have to remove one device and insert another one each time a new function is needed, whether it be electrocautery, stent deployment or fine needle aspiration. This E-Team is developing a new multifunctional endoscopic needle that will consolidate devices, ultimately reducing waste and procedure time. The team’s needle would be dynamic, allowing the physician to begin a procedure with a small diameter needle to locate and reach a lesion, then further explore or alleviate the lesion by increasing the needle diameter during the procedure. The internal diameter of the needle device would remain large enough to allow simultaneous use of other devices, such as a stent or cautery device, increasing the doctor’s procedural capacity without requiring the removal of the initial device.

Dairy Pasteurization for Rural Peru

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2009 - $16,000

Many families in rural Peru make yogurt and cheeses, but, due to a lack of pasteurization equipment and sanitation controls, they can’t legally sell their products in a larger market. Instead, they eat the food themselves or trade with neighbors. Building on prior work in the region and working closely with students from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Peru (PUCP), this E-Team is developing affordable and easy-to-use pasteurization equipment for rural families in Peru. The need for this project comes directly from the villagers themselves, having spoken with team members while implementing a Sustainable Vision-funded project to install green homes in rural Peru. The region of Cusco is the top tourist site in the country, but the villagers have no way of getting their products certified so they can be sold to tourists. The team’s gravity-fed pasteurizer will work by causing milk to flow from an upper pan through tubing submerged in a boiling water bath. The milk flowing through the tubing should reach the appropriate temperature to kill a sufficient number of bacteria. The team, consisting of students from RPI and PUCP, has been investigating the local market. With NCIIA funding they will develop and test a pasteurizer, make sure that dairy products made using the device can achieve certification, and work with microfinance organizations to make the device available for purchase.