October 2009


Brown University, 2001 - $18,000

Medical professionals rely on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) for a number of daily tasks. PDAs replace medical dictionaries and encyclopedias by providing accurate, convenient reference information, and some PDAs perform as medical instruments, such as EKG monitoring devices. However, even as medical professionals benefit from PDA use, they still must fill out patient forms manually, often transcribing information from the reference software to their PDA. Medical professionals who do not wish to fill out charts by hand must leave their patients in order to retrieve printouts from desktop printers.

This E-Team recognized a need for more advanced technology to help medical professionals transfer information more efficiently from their PDA to patient evaluation forms. The team's solution consisted of a small printer that clips to the back of the PDA. The printer conforms to the shape of most PDAs and prints on both label and printer stock. Using label stock, medical professionals can print out information and affix it quickly and efficiently to patients' forms. Piggyback's printer also has the potential to incorporate additional components, such as Bluetooth, a wireless technology.

The team grew out of Brown University's Entrepreneurship course. The five undergraduates involved in the team had skills and knowledge in engineering, economics, entrepreneurship, computer science, and intellectual property. Two professors with extensive knowledge of engineering and intellectual property protection advised the team.

E-Team to Develop an Oxygen Flow Indicator for Hospital Transport

University of Pittsburgh, 2001 - $13,085

The Center for Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that some patients experience decompensation during transport while on oxygen support. Decompensation is a life-threatening problem that occurs when a patient's oxygen supply tubing develops a kink or when oxygen depletes within the storage cylinders. No device exists to indicate the flow of oxygen through a patient's tube. In fact, the only current method of determining if a patient is experiencing decompensation is to see if their face turns blue.

In response to this need for an oxygen flow monitor, this E-Team developed the Spindicator, a device made up of a cylindrical tube, an inline impeller, and gas inlet/outlet. Oxygen flowing through the tube forces the impeller to spin. To make impeller monitoring easy, the team painted the impeller two distinct colors that a person can detect from a minimum of six feet away. If the device fails, the inline impeller design facilitates oxygen flow to the patient. The Spindicator attaches to the nasal attachment or face mask just below the patient's face.

At a preliminary survey at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, 72% of those surveyed expressed extreme support of the product. Across the US, about 1,500 hospitals need to provide oxygen to approximately sixty-six million patients. If the Spindicator sold for $5 to $10, hospitals would pay only $250,000 to $440,000 each year for the product.

The team originated from a NCIIA-funded class, Product Realization. Three undergraduate students, with skills in mechanical and industrial engineering, worked on the team. They worked with four engineering school advisors and two medical/industry advisors. One of these advisors is a doctor from UPMC Presbyterian and headed the clinical trial for Spindicator.

An E-Team to Develop an Image Quality Analyzer for Endoscopes and Laparoscopes

University of Pittsburgh, 2001 - $13,000

According to the American Hospital Association, there are 6,400 hospitals in the US, and most of them own endoscopic equipment. Endoscopes and laparoscopes are narrow, tube-shaped optical devices that allow surgeons to see inside a patient's body without making incisions. The devices minimize trauma in surgery and therefore shorten patient recovery time. However, scope performance depends on the image quality they deliver, and many factors contribute to image quality deterioration, including collision with alien objects, poor maintenance, and the heat and chemicals used in cleaning and sterilization procedures. Currently, hospitals have no tool to ensure scope performance by evaluating and monitoring image quality.

To fill this need, this E-Team developed an image quality analyzer that facilitates efficient and automatic evaluation of the image quality of scopes. With the analyzer, hospitals can ensure the quality of endoscopic surgery and track the performance of scopes over time. Performance data shows optimal maintenance procedures and when replacement is necessary.

The E-Team consisted of two graduate students in engineering. They worked with an industrial engineering faculty member and the director of minimal invasive surgery at the Magee-Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Ski Lift Footrest Retrofit

Rowan University, 2001 - $8,375

In the increasingly popular sport of snowboarding, innovations in board and accessory design are constantly appearing on the market. Designs in chair lifts, however, have not mirrored this trend. As a result, current chair lifts cater mostly to skiers, making them very difficult and unsafe for a snowboarder to use. In response to this, the SnoRhino E-Team developed a new chair lift footrest, called the SnoRhino, that makes the chair ride comfortable for both skiers and snowboarders while solving the problems of safety and comfort for the boarders.

After forming a company called Uphill Enterprises, Inc., the E-Team recently tested their first designs at the Montage Ski Resort, where the product met with excellent feedback from snowboarders.

Rota-Ride Snowboard Binding

University of Colorado - Boulder, 2001 - $11,970

Snowboard bindings can strain riders' knees and cause long-term joint injury, ligament failure, and muscle stress. Releasing one's feet from a snowboard requires a twisting and kicking motion from the bindings of the board that puts significant pressure on the knees and feet. While on a lift, the weight of the boards hangs from riders' feet, causing further strain. Typical bindings also constrain snowboarders' movements on the slopes. More advanced snowboarders use various binding angles to attack different types of terrain or when playing in terrain parks, but the process requires snowboarders to remove the board and use tools to adjust the binding.

In order to make the process of adjusting bindings easier, this E-Team created the Rota-Ride Snowboard Binding, a rotating front-foot binding that allows a snowboarder to make adjustments while bound into their board, without the use of tools. The Rota-Ride rotates freely on the board, locks in a large number of positions to prevent rotation, and fastens securely. It is similar in weight, size, and flexibility to bindings currently on the market.

This E-Team consisted of four undergraduate engineering students, a business student, and a music student with experience in market analysis. They worked with an engineering professor who was the co-director of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program.

Tire Deformation Monitoring System by Team Dewey

University of Colorado Boulder, 2001 - $13,900

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed federal legislation mandating that within three years from passing all new cars and trucks should have real-time tire pressure monitoring systems installed to increase highway safety. Many companies have anticipated the passing of the proposed legislation by developing relevant technologies that monitor tire pressure. However, tire pressure fluctuates when exposed to variables such as temperature, and may not be the most efficient way to ensure proper tire inflation.

In response to this problem, this E-Team of five undergraduates--four in engineering and one in business--from the University of Colorado, Boulder, developed an alternative device that monitors tire shape to ensure proper inflation. Monitoring tire shape has the added advantage of providing other safety information, such as whether a tire is over-inflated or deformed, information that the pressure gauge system cannot provide. Beyond ensuring greater driver and passenger safety, correct tire inflation can also increase gas mileage by up to ten percent because of reduction in drag. Proper inflation increases the life span of a tire, so consumers are motivated both economically and environmentally to purchase and use this device. Because the system is independent of the tire, it can be transferred to a new set of tires and reused multiple times.

Self Vacuum Storage Bag E-Team

University of Central Florida, 2001 - $17,000

Vacuum packaging presents many benefits over conventional storage methods. Vacuum packaging holds food and other perishables for three to five times longer than re-sealable airtight bags, such as those manufactured by ZiplocTM. In addition, vacuum packaging can eliminate freezer burn, reduce product shrinkage, and stop moisture loss and evaporation. It also has applications in long-term storage, chemical and industrial packaging, emergency medical response, and military and space items packaging.

This E-Team from the University of Central Florida developed a vacuum packaging system called ZipVac that incorporates a vacuum sealer directly into a storage bag. When a bag is sealed, the device pumps air and other gases out of the airtight bag through a pumping system at the top. Removing the gases after the bag is sealed ensures more complete gas elimination and enhances the freshness and preservation of stored perishables. The process minimizes storage volume while eliminating freezer burn, product shrinkage, and stopping moisture loss and evaporation. The E-Team was awarded a U.S. patent for their system.

CHI (Cheap Haptic Interface)

Stanford University, 2001 - $11,500

According to research and marketing firm CyberEdge, the virtual reality market was valued at $24 billion in 2000 and is expected to grown by more than 50% each year this decade. To be a part of that growth, this E-Team from Stanford University developed a Cheap Haptic Interface (CHI) system that provided a cheap technology for a multitude of uses.

A haptic interface is a design technique that allows people to use their sense of touch to interact with remote or virtual environments on computers. The user of this type of system can "touch" objects simulated on a personal computer by interacting in real life with motors, like small robots, or other physical devices. By grasping one of the limbs of the robot, the user can exchange information with the PC and move the position of objects in the interface. The technology has several potential applications, such as making computers more accessible for people with disabilities, training people for tasks requiring hand-eye coordination (such as surgery), and playing games.

Updateable Message Personal CD Player - Gen. 3

Northwestern University, 2001 - $12,600

This E-Team from Northwestern University tried to create a new mass medium:messaging on recorded music discs. These messages took the form of ads or educational information. The approach had several advantages over competitive forms of media, such as radio and TV.

The system utilized two versions of CDs. One sold at full price and contained no advertisements. The other contained the same music at substantial discount but played only in an updateable message CD player. When the consumer purchased this latter version, updateable messages would play. Advertisers' messages subsidized the CDs and players, significantly lowering the retail cost for consumers.

The system sent messages in digital form via the subcarrier of the Northwestern University radio station, WNUR. Walkman-style CD players containing the E-Team's hardware module (a radio receiver, memory, and control circuitry) received the broadcast message. The messages were stored in the receiver, and the user controlled when the messages played.

This E-Team consisted of four undergraduate engineering and computer science students. They worked with an engineering professor on technical aspects of the project. The founder and president of SixtySeven Kilohertz, Inc., a company focused on developing commercial applications for the new bandwidth, assisted the team with marketing matters.

Cargo Organizer Project

Loyola Marymount University, 2001 - $14,620

Drivers of sport-utility vehicles, trucks, and many cars often have difficulty keeping their cargo organized because they have no dividers or containers to separate the space and accommodate packages. Consequently, groceries often spill out of bags, sports equipment rattles around, and many items are lost or damaged. To address this problem, this E-Team from Loyola Marymount University created a multipurpose organizer for storing and transporting cargo safely. The Cargo Organizer is easy to use, carry, collapse, and store. In addition, it is expandable and can fold down, making it adaptable to many types of vehicles. Customers can also use the product in homes and offices to organize toys, clothes, office supplies, or tools.

The Cargo Organizer E-Team was comprised of MBAs, graduate students in engineering and product management, and an undergraduate in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in design. Team advisors included a mechanical engineering professor, an entrepreneurship professor, and two mentors: the President of PML, Inc., who can address design and prototyping issues, and the President of Brubaker & Associates, an expert in accounting and marketing.