October 2009

Products for Mobile Robotics

Trinity College, 2000 - $15,500

This project added an E-Team option to an existing innovative program (funded by NSF) that allows students to participate in hands-on innovation teams throughout their academic career. The old program had students from technical and business disciplines working on industry-sponsored problems and involved students throughout their last three undergraduate years. The curriculum involved independent work in teams and a series of mini-courses on entrepreneurship, business, and management topics. The program provided open-ended learning experiences that empowered students and improved the relevance of their educational experience. The E-Team-focused option for the teams allowed them to pursue product and venture development based on their own ideas rather than serving the needs of industrial sponsors.

The NCIIA grant supported the development of two novel products for application in mobile robotics:

  • a motor controlled co-processor (Handy-CoP) that improves the performance of a microcomputer used by many robotics
  • The Image Box (IB), a low-cost, intelligent camera that incorporates a CMOS image sensor and digital signal processing chip.
Patent searches carried out by students indicated that both products are novel. The work was carried out by students in the robot engineering and digital signal processing laboratories at Trinity.


Lehigh University, 2000 - $10,000

Digi-me is a service that helps college-age job seekers and career changers market themselves better by putting their resumes and portfolios in a digital format. Digi-me offers clients the ability to create a digital resume and portfolio on a mini-disc or CD-ROM. These digital resumes and portfolios can include video and audio clips, CAD files, and various graphics in addition to text. An employer can get a more personal view of the applicant and the applicant's ability to communicate, as the job seeker demonstrates his/her communication skills and personality. Digi-me originated in a Lehigh University student E-Team project through the Integrated Product Development course. The project included market research and research on financial and technical feasibility.

Mussel Software

Marshall University, 2000 - $10,408

Mussel Software developed a "Mathematics Engine" for authors of mathematics-based web pages, online math courses, and other stand-alone applications. The college textbook and software market is estimated to be 5.7 billion and is rapidly growing. The team designed this Mathematics Engine as an integrated package of Java2 Class Files. Individual JCFs (such as differentiation or linear algebra) were created, tested, documented, and integrated into the Mathematics Engine. The package was generic so that the e-course and text book authors could purchase licenses to use the software, concentrating on their front-end interface rather than Java programming. Mussel Software retained resale rights, enabling sale to multiple users using the Federal Express purchase tracking software as an established business model. The team's biggest competitor is the handheld calculator used by math students. The calculator is poised for obsolescence as laptops and palm pilots increase in power and drop in price. The ability of these devices to access the Internet is the final nail in the coffin.

2Cam Rock Anchor

University of Colorado - Boulder, 2000 - $14,932

Seth Murray, an avid rock climber for many years, was climbing in Yosemite National Park when he noticed trails of small craters leading up the rock's face. The craters were formed by climbers hammering pitons, or climbing nails, into the rock to serve as anchors. Bothered by the environmental impact of the relatively few climbers, Murray was determined to design a new device that would utilize existing holes without damaging them further.

In the Spring of 2000, Murray formed a team of engineers at the University of Colorado, Boulder to design his idea, a two-cam rock anchor. Seth's design was much smaller than other designs on the market and arguably more efficient. That summer, the team filed for a patent, created a business plan, and developed twenty prototypes to help market their idea.

The following year brought much success for the team. At NCIIA's March Madness for the Mind exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, the team found investment money for their newly created company, Splitter Gear Inc. The money helped the new company, and in August 2001, it sold 140 2Cam Rock Anchors, the official name of the proprietary device. They currently have a deal with an exclusive distributor to help sell their product, and are working on a 4Cam and a 6Cam rock anchor device, among other climbing gear. Although Murray has his hands full with all the worries of a new business, he hopes to soon expand Splitter Gear to become the leader in the climbing industry.

Bluetooth Based Wireless RF Transceiver

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, 2000 - $3000

This E-Team designed a 2.4 GHZ wireless transmitter and receiver capable of transmitting CD quality audio. The receiver performs much the same as current A/V receivers, but wirelessly and without amplification. The transmitter can be affixed to any audio device, but is designed specifically for portable players such as CD or MP3 players, allowing instant connectivity to the variety of devices that populate our environment with a minimal amount of setup time. It also (potentially) allows retrofitting of existing audio or video devices to allow them to be used intermittently for alternative inputs.

Arthroscopic Simulator

University of Miami, 2000 - $13,500

This E-Team developed a mechanical device that allows surgeons to practice various arthroscopic techniques on the knee, in order to develop better techniques and muscle memory. The device incorporates feedback mechanisms to allow for performance monitoring. It is portable, affordable, and easy to use.

Aerodynamic Lift Enhancement Device

City College of New York, 2000 - $16,000

Heavy payload demands for airfoils require the use of new devices, which can improve lift characteristics. The idea of adding kinetic energy to the boundary layer (formed along the surface of a wing), as a means of increasing the maximum lift has been obvious since the basic mechanism of boundary layer separation was first understood. Mechanisms of backward-directed slats on the leading edge of the wing and vortex generators located on the top of the wing are in current usage. This E-Team introduced a novel design for a vortex generator mounted on the leading edge of the wing. This device was tested in CCYN's wind tunnel and showed a sixteen percent reduction in the coefficient of drag. The location on the leading edge appears to offer the largest increase in drag reduction, and in time could become the device of choice for drag reduction in fuel consumption. Using a Boeing 777 standard aircraft long range configuration, the projected fuel savings is $250,000/aircraft annually. This project initiated the development, testing and commercialization of this device for use in aircraft.

Tornado Alarm Design, Beta Test, and Incidental Manufacture

Missouri State University, 2000 - $10,750

Tornadoes cause about sixty deaths per year. While many of these are preventable through the current National Weather Service Watch and Warning system, opportunities to save lives still exist. This E-Team developed and alpha tested an in-home barometric Tornado Alarm (TA) to warn people in hurricane danger areas. The test consisted of placing approximately 300 beta TAs with documenting volunteers in tornado-prone regions before the start of the 2001 tornado season. These volunteers documented the occurrence of thunderstorms and tornadoes near the TA and its operation. The results were analyzed to determine warning times, false alarm rates, and other operational and marketing parameters. Tornado alarm benefits:

  • one does not have to monitor radio or TV to be warned
  • sleeping or otherwise occupied persons are warned
  • persons in rural areas are better protected

An E-Team to Develop a Keyless Key

University of Pittsburgh, 2000 - $14,625

This E-Team developed a unique security system that allows a person who is permitted entry through a door to have access without requiring the use of a key, card, or other device. The device is a small mountable electronic chip or substrate that can be placed on the back of a watch or other personal item. The chip communicates with the base station lock to unlock the door.

Three undergraduate students were on this E-Team, with skills in electrical engineering, manufacturing, object-oriented solutions, advanced product development and testing, and understanding of interfacing and systems integration. Three faculty advisors in electrical and industrial engineering assisted the team.

Precision Wire Saw Machining of Advanced Engineering Materials

North Carolina State University, 2000 - $18,000

This E-Team studied the wire machining technologies for advanced engineering materials. The traditional inner diamond saw blade for slicing the single crystal silicon ingot to thin wafers has reached its technical limits. The free-abrasive wire saw machining process has been developed to address the needs to slice large size, twelve-inch or bigger in diameter, silicon wafers. One of the recent developments in wire saw wafer slicing technology is the thin, fixed-abrasive diamond wire. This new type of wire has not only improved the material removal rate in wire saw machining but also expanded the type of work-material from silicon to ceramics, composites, eastomers, and other non-electrically conductive ceramic materials. Three new wire saw machining configurations, 2-axis wire contour sawing, 4-axis wire contour sawing, and cylindrical wire sawing, were proposed. Similar to the wire EDM process for electrically conductive materials, these new wire saw machining methods can provide a flexible and cost-effective method to machine non-electrically conductive materials to complicated shapes.