October 2009

A Flexible Protein Modeling System for Undergraduate

Milwaukee School of Engineering, 2000 - $13,900

This E-Team designed, built, and field-tested a flexible protein modeling system to be used in conjunction with physical, three-dimensional models of proteins. These physical models are produced using rapid prototyping technology at the Center for BioMolecular Modeling at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The addition of a flexible modeling component to these otherwise static models enhanced the interactive nature of these instructional aids.

Guardian 2000 Global Monitoring System

East Tennessee State University, 2000 - $12,500

This grant further developed the first of three models of the"Guardian 2000 Monitoring system," a cutting edge invention designed to monitor the location of children, Alzheimer patients and other valued people and material items. The E-Team consisted of highly qualified faculty advisors (from both technical and business disciplines from two universities), technical and business experts/mentors, engineering and business students to insure success in bringing this device to the market.

The system was prototyped in a NCIIA-supported class; the grant supported a multi-institutional, multidisciplinary team of students from ETSU and LMU in developing production prototypes, business and marketing plans, and patents.

Design and Development of a Flexible Bolt

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 2000 - $10,300

This E-Team designed and developed a flexible bolt. The bolt can be used for attaching misaligned parts and non-parallel parts, as well as for selective compliance devices. The product prototype was used for studying the effectiveness of the design, as well as for patenting and market search and development.

The E-Team consisted of a graduate ME and undergraduate ME student working with Dr. Saeed Niku. The work plan involved further design work, finite element analysis and creation of proof of concept prototypes in addition to initiating patenting and contracting with WISC for a market assessment study. The E-Team marketed the product through the university's tech transfer foundation.

National Instruments Equipment Grant Program

The NCIIA has developed an equipment grants program in cooperation with National Instruments (NI) Corporation. National Instruments (Nasdaq: NATI) leverages commercial technologies, such as industry-standard computers and the Internet, to deliver customer-defined measurement and automation solutions. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 2,500 employees and direct sales offices in more than 30 countries. NI is increasing the productivity of engineers and scientists worldwide by delivering easy-to-integrate software and modular hardware.

Under the terms of the agreement, applicants for NCIIA advanced E-Team grants in either of the annual grant cycles may request National Equipment products using an application form appended to the NCIIA grant application. If an advanced E-Team grant application is successful, NCIIA forwards the appended equipment application to NI. NI reviews each application and makes all equipment funding decisions. Equipment awarded through this grant program becomes the property of the E-Team's sponsoring institution.

E-mail the NCIIA or visit the NI website to learn more.




N2TEC, the National Network for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, is a National Science Foundation–Partners for Innovation Project aiming to raise the level of innovation and technology commercialization in colleges, universities, and communities across the nation. N2TEC is creating a network to pool the resources and knowledge of colleges and universities as well as public/private partners, enabling faculty and students to share resources and collaborate without regard to geographic boundaries.

The University of Southern California received the $600,000 award and raised an additional $600,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to support the build-out and testing of the various components of the project. Major project partners include the NCIIA, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Caltech, Claremont Graduate University, Cornell University, University of Pittsburgh, California State University Fresno, University of Arkansas, University of Nevada-Reno, NASA-Ames, California Technology Trade and Commerce, and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

N2TEC will give partners, especially under-served schools, access to resources they could not generate on their own. Private sector partners will supply technology, resources, professional expertise, and support for the development of the network. N2TEC will offer a unique opportunity for E-Teams to form across several schools, with the support of expert mentors from anywhere in the country.

The network goes well beyond the Internet community it is creating to offer unique collaborative resources and opportunities. For example, the University of Pittsburgh is offering rapid prototyping services to faculty and students who use the N2TEC network. The USC Engineering and Technology Transfer Center is providing IP data mining software for finding technologies and testing them through specialty user groups on the Internet. CSUF Fresno is leading the effort to develop commercialization curricula that will give users the skills they need to effectively take a technology from discovery to market.

N2TEC is open to member schools of the NCIIA who will access much of the content and some of the resources at no charge. Partner-level participation and access to higher-level resources like expert services, E-Team resources, and high-end collaboration technologies will be available to partner schools that contribute to the building of N2TEC. The structure for becoming a partner and accessing these resources is in development. For more information, contact Kathleen Allen, N2TEC project director, 213-740-0659, kallen@marshall.usc.edu or visit the N2TEC site at www.n2tec.org.


This bibliography section offers suggestions of useful print resources regarding innovation and entrepreneurship education. Resources shown are gleaned from the reports and syllabi of faculty involved in NCIIA-supported curricular development projects.

Authors Title
Karl H. Vesper New Venture Experience
Howard Gardner Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi
Howard Gardner Art, Mind, and Brain: A Cognitive Approach to Creativity
Howard Gardner The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand
Roger Von Oech A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
Rick Feinberg Peculiar Patents: A Collection of Unusual and Interesting Inventions from the Files of the U.S. Patent Office
David Pressman Patent It Yourself, 4th edition
Allan V. Abbot and David G. Wilson, Eds. Human-Powered Vehicles
James F. Bandrowski Corporate Imagination PlusÑFive Steps to Translating Innovative Strategies Into Action
D. Biggs Defining, Designing and Launching Market Aimed Products
Richard M. Felder Reaching the Second TierÑLearning and Teaching Style in College Science Education
J.A. Kleppe A Special Class for Senior Electrical Engineering Students on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference
J.A. Kleppe and M.S. Looney A Special Class on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Babson College-Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurship Conference
J.A. Kleppe and E.L. Wang An Experiment: Senior Level Engineering and MBA Students in an E-Team Experience, Proceedings of the 2nd Annual NCIIA National Conference
D. MacVicar and D. Throne Managing High-Tech Start-Ups
J.W. Shelnutt, S.G. Middleton, K.A. Buch, and M. Lumsdaine Forming Student Project Teams Based on Herrmann Brain Dominance (HBDI) Results, ASEE Annual Conference Proceeding
W.F. Anderson Gene Therapy
Australian Biotechnology Association Glossary in Terms of Biotechnology
Penelope Barker, Ed. The Reference Shelf: Genetics and Society
C. Evers Access Excellence, About Biotech, The One Gene/One Enzyme Hypothesis, Beadle and TatumÕs 1941 Breakthrough
B.R. Glick and J.J. Pasternak Molecular Biotechnology, Principles & Applications of Recombinant DNA
Arthur Kornberg The Golden Helix: Inside Biotech Ventures
A. Murphy and J. Perrella A Further Look at Biotechnology
North Carolina Biotechnology Center Introduction to Biotechnology
Mike Baxter Product Design: A Practical Guide to Systematic Methods of New Product Development
Clive L. Dym, and Patrick Little Engineering Design: A Project-Based Introduction
Eastman-Kodak Company Health, Safety and Human Factors Laboratory Ergonomic Design for People at Work
William Green, and Patrick Jordan, Eds. Human Factors in Product Design: Current Practice and Future Trends
Thomas Hauff-Barrons An Illustrated Historical Overview
Joseph Koncelik Aging and the Product Environment.
K.H.E. Kroemer, H.B. Kroemer, and K.E. Kroemer-Elbert Ergonomics: How to Design for Ease and Efficiency
Stewart Pugh Total Design: Integrated Methods for Successful Product Engineering
Neville Stanton, Ed. Human Factors in Consumer Products
G. Arafat Concept Evaluation in Engineering Design. Ph.D. Dissertation, Wayne State University
G. Arafat, B. Goodman and T. Arciszewski Ramzes: A Knowledge-Based System for Structural Concept Evaluation, Computing Systems in Engineering
Tomasz Arciszewski Stoachastic Form Optimization
Tomasz Arciszewski, T. Sauer, and D. Schum Conceptual Design: Chaos-Based Approach, A Manuscript. George Mason University
Tomasz Arciszewski, H. Vyas, and K. DeJong Inventive Design in Structural Engineering: An Evolutionary Computation Approach, Proceedings of Conference, Applications of Artificial Intelligence
Dana Clarke TRIZ: Through the Eyes of an American TRIZ Specialist
Marsh Fisher The Ideafisher: How to Land That Big Idea - And Other Secrets of Creativity in Business
James Gleick Chaos: Making a New Science
Mario W. Cardullo, P.E Textbook: Technological Entrepreneurism: Enterprise Formation, Financing, and Growth
C. Gordon Bell High-Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial Success
Howard W. Oden Managing Corporate Culture, Innovation, and Intrapreneurship
Rod Coombs, Albert Richards, and Pier Paolo Saviotti, Eds. Technological Collaboration: The Dynamics of Cooperation Industrial Innovation
Neil F. Sullivan Technology Transfer: Making the Most of Your Intellectual Property
Andrew B. Bernard and Charles I. Jones Technology and Convergence
Michael Bradford The Risks of Technology
Myrna Gilbert and Martyn Cordey-Hayes Understanding the Process of Knowledge transfer to Achieve Successful Technological Innovation
Ralph Katz, Eric S. Rebentisch, and Thomas J. Allen A Study of Technology Transfer in a Multinational Cooperative Joint Venture
Gordon Kingsley, Barry Bozeman and Karen Coker Technology Transfer and Absorption: an ÔRandD Value MappingÕ Approach to Evaluation
Ines Macho-Stadler, Xavier Martinez-Giralt, and J.David Perez-Castrillo The Role of Information in Licensing Contract Design
Barry Rein Legal Basics of Tech transfer Licensing
Raykun R. Tan Success Criteria and Success Factors for External Technology Transfer Projects
Daniela Venanzi A New Approach to the Identification and Selection of International Technology Transfer Modes: Logical Framework and Empirical Evidence
James Adams Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, 3rd edition
George Beakley and E. Chilton Design: Serving the Needs of Man
Hanks and Bellison Rapid Viz: A New Method for the Rapid Visualization of Ideas
Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall The Universal Traveler: A Soft Systems Guide to Creativity, Problem Solving, and the Process of Reaching Goals
James Thorpe and William H. Middendorf What Every Engineer Should Know About Product Liability
David Ullman The Mechanical Design Process
Harold P. Van Cott and R. Kinkade Human Engineering Guide to Equipment Design
RogerVon Oech, Roger A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior to Be More Creative
William J. Stolze Startup: An EntrepreneurÕs Guide to Launching and Managing a New Business, 2nd Edition
William J. Stolze Startup Financing: An EntrepreneurÕs Guide to Financing a New or Growing Business
Tomasz Arciszewski and Boris Zlotin Ideation/Triz: Innovation Key to Competitive Advantage and Growth
William J. J. Gordon Synectics: The development of creative capacity
P. Hajdo Methodology of Integrated Design of Partially Restrained Joints in Steel Frames, Ph.D. Dissertation, Wayne State University
P. Hajdo and T. Arciszewski Computer Generation of Structural Concepts: A Knowledge-Based Approach, Proceedings of the ASCE Seventh Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering
E. Hunt, ed. R.J. Sternberg Problem Solving, in: Thinking and Problem Solving
Idea Fisher Systems, Inc. IdeaFisherPRO, UserÕs Guide for Macintosh
Alla Zusman, Gafur Zainiev, Dana Clark, and ed. Victoria Roza TRIZ in Progress: Transactions of the Ideation Research Group
B.V. Koen Definition of the Engineering Method
Edward Lumsdaine and Monika Lumsdaine Creative Problem Solving: Thinking Skills for a Changing World
Mindlink The MindLink Handbook for Creative Problem Solving: Mindlink Problem Solver
G. Pahl and W. Beitz Engineering Design: A Systematic Approach
T.L. Saaty and J.M. Alexander Thinking With Models
John Terninko, Alla Zusman, and Boris Zotin Systematic Innovation, An Introduction to TRIZ
Paul Sloane The Leader's Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills
Powerful Problem-solving Techniques to Ignite Your Team's Potential
F. Zwicky Discovery, Invention, Research through the Morphological Analysis

University of Colorado at Boulder - Creating Appropriate Technologies for the Developing World

In 2002, NCIIA funding supported development of the Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (CAST) at UC Boulder. Two courses were modified using NCIIA funds: Engineering Projects and Sustainability and the Built Environment. In the courses students learn the basics of sustainability and create novel devices to combat water, sanitation, energy and health problems in developing communities. CAST is firmly established at UC, but according to program creator Dr. Bernard Amadei, there is much work to be done.

Creating Appropriate Technologies for the Developing World

Program goals and structure
In 2002, NCIIA supported development of the Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (CAST) in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at UC Boulder. CAST is part of the ambitious Engineering for Developing Countries (EDC) initiative at UC, whose goal is to develop internationally responsible students who can create sustainable technologies and business solutions applicable to development problems faced by poor communities around the world. CAST is the research and development arm of EDC.

CAST provides the following services:

  • Database development and maintenance – the center archives existing technologies aimed at the developing world, as well as organizations currently providing services to the developing world.
  • Testing and improvement of existing technology – although a wide range of appropriate technology systems already exist on the international market, many of these systems have not been tested under variable conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.) and are poorly documented. The center responds to this need by testing existing technologies and proposing modifications.
  • New research – the center creates novel technologies and transfers them to the developing world.
  • Education and training – the center serves as a training ground for students, practicing engineers, and entrepreneurs in the developed world.

The majority of NCIIA funding was used to modify two courses within CAST: GEEN 1400 (Engineering Projects) and CVEN 4838/5838 (Sustainability and the Built Environment).

GEEN 1400 – Engineering Projects
GEEN 1400 is a three-credit, first-year course offered each semester through the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory (ITLL) in the College of Engineering. The course consists of ten to twelve modules emphasizing different aspects of engineering, integrating hands-on learning with project-based, team-oriented design experiences. The purpose of the course is to provide students an introduction to engineering through a series of small projects completed in interdisciplinary teams.

With NCIIA funding, Professor Bernard Amadei developed GEEN 1400-020, a special sub-section of Engineering Projects. The course operates in much the same way as GEEN 1400, but focuses on creating appropriate technology for solving water, sanitation, energy and health problems in developing communities.

Dr. Amadei calls GEEN 1400-020 a “great retainer. We’ve found that students who take the course are much more likely to remain engineering majors.”

CVEN 4838/5838 – Sustainability and the Built Environment
This course, open to undergraduate and graduate students, introduces students to the fundamental concepts of sustainability and sustainable development. Emphasis is placed on understanding natural systems, the interaction of the built environment with natural systems, and the role of technical and non-technical issues in shaping engineering decisions.

NCIIA funding for CVEN 4838/5838 was used to hire Jon Schulz as a guest instructor in spring 2003. According to Dr. Amadei, Schulz, a former NASA researcher specializing in sustainability and recycling technology, “provided a unique and practical perspective on sustainability and sustainable development that was of great benefit to the students that took the course. Jon brought a professional perspective and showed how sustainability can work in the real world.”

History and context
The Engineering for Developing Countries initiative is based on the idea that, in response to the global nature of the problems earth is facing today and is likely to face in the near future, engineers in the industrialized world need to provide leadership in the development of sustainable technologies. The engineer’s role needs to take multiple forms, from creating physical infrastructures to designing solutions that promote sound environmental management practices.

The challenge is to educate engineers who:

  • have the skills and tools to address the issues our planet faces today;
  • are aware of the needs of the developing world; and,
  • can contribute to the relief of endemic problems of poverty in developing communities worldwide.

Through EDC and CAST, UC Boulder hopes to create such engineers.

Five to six E-Teams consisting of four to five students each form in GEEN 1400-020. Before forming teams, each student takes a personality test that places him or her in one of four quadrants. Professor Amadei then assigns students from different quadrants to work together on the same team. Says Professor Amadei, “For our purposes, the personality test method is the best way to make sure teams are interdisciplinary. The students are all freshmen, and a number of students are undeclared, so we can’t go by major. This way we know there will be a multiplicity of approaches within each team.”

Innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes
Some of the GEEN 1400-020 fall 2002 projects were:

  • Production of biofuel
  • Production of biogas from rotting bananas
  • Design and construction of a water turbine
  • Water heating for refugee camps
  • Pressurized Filtron system for water filtration
  • Solar water pumping

Fall 2003 projects included:

  • Power production using a waterwheel
  • Thermoelectric cooling
  • Steam power generation
  • Solar/human power outlet
  • Briquetting
  • Improving cooking stoves

The biofuel E-Team, called Boulder Biodiesel, has successfully commercialized their product. They run a biodiesel processing plant and filling station, from which they distribute their fuel – processed waste cooking oil from the university cafeterias. This fuel, made from vegetable oil, can be used in any diesel engine without any modifications to the vehicle. It’s a renewable, non-toxic, biodegradable and domestic fuel with a similar engine performance as diesel fuel, but doesn’t require petroleum.

Challenges and lessons learned
According to Dr. Amadei, the biggest challenge related to EDC and CAST is getting people to understand the importance of helping communities in the developing world. “Everything today in the developed world is high-tech, with nanotechnology and genetics being on the forefront," he says. "It’s very hard to convince people that low-tech ventures like we see in GEEN 1400-020 are important, and even critical, to our future. The NCIIA funding we received, however, has gone a long way in helping us change that attitude.”

Future prospects
CAST is firmly established at UC Boulder, but according to Dr. Amadei, there is much more work to be done. “There are many things ahead of us,” he says. ‘We need to learn how to train people in the developing world to use our technologies. We need to do more scientific work. We need to do more research, more testing. We need to create students who become civil engineers focused on the developing world.”

Supplementary materials
EDC website: http://www.edc-cu.org/index.htm

Ramapo College of New Jersey - Invention: Creative and Legal Perspectives

In this course, students form E-Teams and develop prototypes to solve problems based on everyday needs. The purpose of the course is to motivate students to invent, and supply them with the minimum expertise necessary to produce, market, and protect an invention. One E-Team from the pilot course, Photoworks, received Advanced E-Team funding to continue development of their inexpensive device for viewing, modifying and printing photos from positive or negative film. Ramapo's limited resources limit the frequency with which the course is offered, but it remains popular and quickly fills to capacity when available.

Invention: Creative and Legal Perspectives
Improving a new invention course with an experiential focus, open to all majors

Program goals and structure
Professors Phil Anderson and Cherie Ann Sherman used an NCIIA planning grant to fortify a new invention course for students from all majors. The purpose of the course is to motivate students to invent, and supply them with the minimum expertise necessary to produce, market, and protect an invention. The course is experiential, and stresses “doing,” rather than lectures.

Most of the students enrolled in the improved course’s first semester were science majors, but, as the instructors had hoped, in subsequent semesters the course has drawn students from various other majors as well, including communication and nursing.

Students and faculty supply ideas for inventions based on everyday needs. The students form E-Teams around ideas culled from the initial group. Students keep lab notebooks, where they document their inventions in words and drawings. Witnesses sign the entries, to protect the students' intellectual property.

Student E-Teams are required to develop their inventions from conception to prototype, and to present their work to the class and to a panel of external evaluators. As part of this process, students:

  • search prior art to make sure their inventions are original
  • write partial patent applications
  • create a drawing and a prototype
  • develop a marketing plan
  • visit manufacturing plants and trade shows

Professor Anderson says, “We focus heavily on the patent side of things. Students learn about every aspect of the patent process, and they really enjoy it.”

History and context
At the time they applied for the grant, Professors Phil Anderson and Cherie Ann Sherman were in their first semester of team-teaching a new course at Ramapo College, entitled Invention: Creative, Social, and Legal Perspectives. The course, open to all majors, was the first of its kind offered at the College. The grant aimed to expand the course into two semesters, allowing students greater opportunity to develop their ideas through the process of production, marketing and protection.

As of this writing, Professors Anderson and Sherman have taught the course four times by convention means, and once as a distance course. Students formed E-Teams that met independently, and much communication and learning was accomplished via chat rooms. Anderson says that the response to the internet-based distance course was good, but that students complained that the three-week intersession in which it was offered was too short to achieve the course objectives.

The course instructors allow students to group themselves into E-Teams of three to five, according to their interests. The instructors recommend that the students seek out diverse sets of talents in the teams.

Although students tend to gravitate toward other students from the same disciplines, Professor Sherman says that the diversity of majors in the course worked out “better than you might think.” She says that sometimes it was necessary to give non-technical students some one-on-one instruction. “The non-technical students have a lot of good ideas,” she says, “but they may need extra help in understanding how things work technically.” For example, one student presented an idea for a combination washer-dryer in which clothes would pass through the machine automatically, but she needed to learn the basics of how such equipment works. Sherman says, “I think this kind of learning was very beneficial for the non-science students—not just the technical aspects of the machinery, but learning how to take apart a problem.”

The biggest limitation on course-based E-Teams, says Anderson, is that they usually disband quickly after the course ends, because their members graduate. “Ramapo students have many gen ed requirements to fulfill. The way we make room for this course is to make it a senior seminar, which is one of their requirements. The flip side is that everyone participating in the course is a senior, and doesn’t have a chance to follow through. The members of one very successful team were all offered fellowships to go to grad school, so they were out of here. But, they have a patent application in, and we hope that either they will pick up the project again, or we can get another E-Team started on it.”

Innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes
For Professors Cherie Sherman (Information Systems) and Philip Anderson (Physics), this course was a first experience in collaborative team-teaching. The interdisciplinary approach proved rewarding to the professors and, based upon evaluations, to the students as well.

E-Teams started during the course include:

  • Saniseal Can: A can with a removable seal that keeps the lid sanitary
  • Virtual Cycler: A stationary bike with a video monitor providing virtual terrain
  • Aircraft Cooling System: A solar-powered cooling system with intake and venting fans located in existing wing vents
  • Photoworks: An inexpensive device for viewing, modifying and printing photos from positive or negative film

The Photoworks group displayed its product at the Smithsonian exhibit, during the NCIIA Annual Conference. “It was a great experience for them,” says Anderson. “They were rewarded for their hard work with lots of recognition, including many people saying that they wanted to buy the product. It was also a big hit here at the institution, among student sand faculty, because of all the press attention. Glamour is an easy sell—the team’s work inspired other students to move ahead with their inventions.”

As a result of the course, some students have formed an Invention Club. The club has a number of very enthusiastic members, who have pushed for affiliation with other clubs in the School of Science, the School of Business, and the Economics and Physics departments. “The Club produces some really far out ideas,” says Anderson, “but the level of enthusiasm is high. The best part is that it’s all student-generated. I believe that when we next seek funding for our projects, it will be based in these student-generated activities. That’s really how it should be.”

Challenges and lessons learned
Professors Anderson and Sherman enjoy teaching the Invention course and feel that it is valuable to Ramapo students. Each session is limited to twenty-six students, and the course fills quickly every time it’s offered. However, they are constrained by the college’s limited resources, allowing the course to be offered only occasionally. Anderson says, “We are hoping that the course will fit into a new general education slot. If this happens, we can offer the course to sophomores, who will be able to follow up on their experience and pursue Advanced E-Team funding in their last two years at Ramapo.”

Because this course was the first of its kind at Ramapo College, the instructors spent considerable time investigating potential legal issues. Some students who were interested in developing their inventions commercially were reluctant to share their ideas with the class. In response, the instructors required that the students keep lab notebooks documenting and dating their work, and that all students sign a nondisclosure agreement for each classmate’s presentation, of which the College kept a copy. Anderson says, “We checked students’ lab notebooks from time to time to ensure that their records would protect their ideas. Since the classroom is such a public forum, we have to make sure it’s a safe place for students to share their intellectual property.”

Future prospects
Although the course has been a success, and fully enrolled every semester, the instructors have not been able to offer it often enough to meet student demand. “The problem lies in our college’s resources,” says Sherman. “We each have heavy demands placed on us by our own departments, which means that we cannot offer the course as frequently as we, and the students, would like.” Because of these demands, Anderson and Sherman have not yet expanded the course to two semesters, as they had hoped.

One possibility under consideration is an Engineering Physics major that might allow room for invention courses. A modified version of the course will soon be offered to MBA students, and Sherman and Anderson hope that, if the Invention course becomes a general education course, they will be able to offer it to sophomores, offer it more frequently, and possibly even expand it to two semesters.


  • Feinberg, Rick, Peculiar Patents: A Collection Of Unusual And Interesting Inventions From The Files Of The U.S. Patent Office. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, c1994.
  • Pressman, David, Patent It Yourself, 4th Ed. Berkeley: Nolo Press, 1995.

Video series:

  • The Secret Life of Machines
  • The Inventors, Out of Their Minds
  • Connections

Supplementary materials
1. Syllabus
2. In-class assignment: “Thirty Often-Asked Questions and Their Answers for the Amateur Inventor”
3. Writing Patent Claims, homework assignment
4. What to Include in Your Brochure, handout
5. Requirements for Final Project, handout
6. Sample Income Statement, handout
7. Using the World Wide Web for Locating Patent and Entrepreneurial Information, homework assignment
8. Creativity, homework assignment
9. The Business Plan, Powerpoint slide presentation
10. Building a Thingamajig, homework assignment
11. Patent Drawing, handout
12. Estimating, homework assignment
13. How Much Should You Get for Your Invention? handout
14. Product/Market Evaluation, Powerpoint slide presentation
15. Marketing Your Invention, Powerpoint slide presentation
16. Claim Drafting, handout
17. Three Types of Problem-Solving, in-class assignment
18. Patent Searching, handout
19. Drafting the Specification, handout
20. Invention Team Evaluation Guidelines

Clark Atlanta University - ENGR 110 Engineering Computer Graphics

In this project, an NCIIA planning grant supported the incorporation of E-Teams into the required introductory engineering design course at Clark Atlanta University. Professor Sriprakash Sarathy used a start-up venture model for the course, in which students formed E-Teams and competed against each other to solve a given problem. Four E-Teams formed in the pilot semester, all charged with developing a concept for a product, performing market research, and assessing cost and the price of their product. Though some E-Teams attempted to commercialize their products beyond the class timeframe, an improved support system needs to be in place for most students to pursue commercialization.

Engineering Graphics
Restructuring Engineering 110 (Engineering Graphics) to incorporate E-Teams, with a multidisciplinary approach to team-based design

Program goals and structure
With this grant NCIIA supported the restructuring of Engineering Graphics, a required course in the engineering curriculum at Clark Atlanta, to support the formation of E-Teams and entrepreneurial practice. The course instructor, Professor Sriprakash Sarathy, incorporated a start-up venture model for the course in which students, primarily freshmen and sophomores, work in E-Teams and compete against each other to solve a given problem.

Additional changes to the course included the following:

  • E-Teams now present mid-project reviews in which they share their findings and proposed solutions with other teams. This raises students’ awareness of what the competition is doing, and stimulates them to greater innovation.
  • Students use Quality Function Deployment to study and analyze trade-offs in making a design selection. This helps identify and quantify risk associated with new technologies and processes.
  • E-Teams have access to presentation and graphics production software, to develop professional presentation and marketing materials.

In the course, E-Teams receive a memo from the “CEO,” instructing them to solve a particular design problem. They have to develop a concept, justify the concept, and show how it will affect the company’s bottom line. The second time Sarathy offered the course, he invited the E-Teams to choose the type of company they wanted to work for. 50% chose to be startup companies, rather than established companies. Sarathy says, “I’m not sure exactly why they wanted to be startups. Maybe it’s because of the glamour of Yahoo! and other internet startups. After several semesters of finding that the majority of students thought they wanted to work for startups, Sarathy introduced a course unit to explain what startups really are and how they really operate. He says, “My work in the course is closely related to work I’m doing with faculty in an Atlanta entrepreneurship incubator. I’ve learned from my experiences there that it’s important to go beyond a good idea, to find out how it fits with what already exists, and how to approach the market.”

History and context
The Department of Engineering at Clark Atlanta University offers a four-year undergraduate degree in engineering. Students may specialize in Civil, Mechanical, Electrical or Chemical Engineering. In addition to their courses, students receive support from mentoring relationships with faculty, internships, and summer co-op programs.

ENGN 110 (Engineering Graphics), together with Introduction to Engineering, makes up the foundation of freshman engineering studies, introducing students to the analytical process, and the concept of design. The course is open to students of all majors, and from all the campuses in the Atlanta University Center consortium. It focuses on the basics of graphics communication in the design process, and equips students with the tools to visualize, design, develop, and model concepts.

Before the course was revised, students worked in groups to support the preliminary design process, but E-Teams for the purpose of developing products commercially were not used. In its pilot semester, the revised Engineering Graphics course produced four E-Teams. All were modeled as start-up ventures. Two were manufacturing firms, one was an assembly firm, and one was a design consulting firm. All four accomplished the following:

  • Developed and fleshed out a concept for a marketable product
  • Identified the market segment
  • Identified factors affecting the success of the company
  • Assessed costs and set prices on the products
  • Developed innovative marketing approaches in keeping with their companies’ philosophies

The course is available to students from all majors. According to Sarathy, it generally attracts a 50-50% mix of engineering and non-engineering students. The non-engineering students are mostly natural sciences and business majors, with a few social science majors adding to the mix. Professor Sarathy says that the first time he offered the enhanced course, he attempted to use a personality inventory test to balance the teams. Using the test proved too expensive and too time consuming. “Now,” he says, “The students make presentations to the rest of the class, ‘selling’ their skills and talents. I then select several students to be team leaders, and ask them to select their E-Teams from the rest of the class, keeping a balance of abilities on each team.” Generally, this approach works well, although the students, generally young, sometimes need guidance in team choosing. “It’s nice in theory,” says Sarathy, “but in reality, I do end up mediating a few intra-team problems.”

Innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes
Several of the E-Teams generated by the course have indicated a desire to continue their work as a team over the next one to two years. One team is investigating financing and investor relations issues, and seeking additional support for their learning through a local technology incubator.

Professor Sarathy says, “Students don’t believe me at first when I tell them that the course may be the most gratifying experience in their four years of college, but the often return and tell me that I was right. Because of the way engineering education is structured, they usually don’t get to apply the innovate perspectives they learn in this course in such a focused way later in their education. Creativity in design is very important, but somehow students lose sight of this as they progress.”

During the past few years, Sarathy has made efforts to set up structures for the students to continue pursuing creative design. One approach to this is a design competition in robotics open to students from the entire Atlanta University Center consortium. A freshman E-Team generated by Sarathy’s design course won the competition, after working independently on their project beyond the course. This E-Team beat out a sophisticated project using complex logic devised by a team of computer science students, because they interpreted the assignment and the rules in an innovative way, and designed a simpler and more effective device.

Another E-Team from Sarathy’s course designed an innovative solution to a problem at Morehouse College, another member of the Atlanta University Center consortium. Sarathy says, “Every day, two thousand students are required to attend chapel services. Their attendance is checked with their ID cards. Every day, a terrible traffic bottleneck is created at the chapel, and because of the cumbersome attendance-taking process, students may not leave, even to use the bathroom, once they have checked in.” Sarathy says that the E-Team designed a sophisticated card reader and seat sensor system which would enable all doors to be open, and students to quickly run ID cards through a reader. The system would also allow students to come and go as needed. He says, “These students adapted the existing technology in an innovative way to solve a real problem.” The students sent their design idea to Morehouse.

Challenges and lessons learned
Because students focus on learning new software such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, they do not have adequate time to compile significant market survey data, as Professor Sarathy had originally hoped they would. A greater problem, however, is the lack of structure for follow-through on the students’ work within the course. At this time, there is no reliable resource to fund the prototyping process, and no follow-up course to enable students to move their ideas forward. Several E-Teams, of their own initiative, have chosen to pursue development of their designs after the end of the course, but they are the exception.

Future prospects
The enhanced course has sparked an upsurge in student interest in entrepreneurship. Professor Sarathy feels it is important to keep the interest alive during the students’ junior and senior years. At this point, no academic structure exists to support student innovative or entrepreneurship efforts beyond the course. It is up to individual students to take the initiative for their own entrepreneurial learning.

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator

Supplementary materials
Course website: http://www.cau.edu/~ssarathy
ENGR 110 Course syllabus
Evaluation form for individual team presentations

Appalachian State University - Ergonomic Design for Special Populations

In Appalachian State University's Ergonomic Design for Special Populations, teams of students research the special population of their choice to determine the group's needs, problems, and the obstacles they face, then design an original product to solve one of the identified problems. Though Appalachian State lacks the resources to produce E-Teams that intend to commercialize products, several inventions have been produced in the class: an ergonomic keyboard, a hand-held MP3 player, and a shower hot air drying system for people with reduced mobility. Course enrollment grows each year, and the faculty hopes the course will become a requirement in the curriculum.

Program goals and structure
Students participating in this course have already completed an introductory design course. The Ergonomic Design course covers technical areas, including:

  • Ergonomic principles
  • Universal design
  • Research techniques
  • The use of anthropometric data
  • Test and measurement of design solutions
  • The use of cameras and computer products for high quality presentations
  • Problem-solving models

Teams of students research the population of their choice to determine the group's needs and problems, then design an original product to solve them. Professor Jim McLeod, who taught the first course session in fall 2000, says that his main goal was to get students thinking about issues of ergonomics. “We started by talking about the hand, since so much of what we do daily requires using our hands. Students designed products that would be easier on the hands, based on problems they had noticed on their own.” McLeod assigned the second design project around the topic of packaging. For the final project, students developed products for a special population.

The course involves some lecture, but primarily involves information-sharing seminars, model and prototype production in a lab setting, and testing and evaluation of solutions by potential users. The class meets in the Design Modeling Lab at ASU.

Students who complete the course, most of whom are not seniors, are asked to return the following year and present their projects to currently enrolled students. Contingent upon successful completion of course requirements, students may take the course up to three times.

History and context
The Industrial Drafting and Design program at Appalachian State formally began in 1994 with two tracks: architecture and product design. For the first five years, the program shared facilities with the rest of the Department of Technology. In 1998, Professor Edwards acquired a small room, formerly used for computers, and designated it as the Design Modeling Lab. With university funding, the lab was equipped by the summer of 1999.

In the spring of 2000, the university opened a new position in Industrial Drafting and Design, and hired a new faculty member, Jim McLeod. In the fall, McLeod offered the Ergonomic Design course as a “selected topics” course (not officially listed in the undergraduate bulletin) for the first time. Eight students enrolled in the course’s first session. Says Edwards, “It’s great to be able to offer another course. Sometimes we’re spread so thin we feel like we can’t offer the kind of depth we want. Even though Drafting and Design is a kind of new major, we’re now up to sixty-nine students enrolled in the program. We have a great department chair. The wheels of academia grind slowly, but we’re making progress.” McLeod says, “To this point, the architecture track has really been the primary focus of the Design program. Now that I’ve been hired and have started offering new courses, we hope to strengthen the product design track.”

Participants in the course are generally juniors and seniors majoring in Technology and concentrating in Industrial Drafting and Design. The course also allows for inviting students from other departments within Appalachian State’s College of Fine and Applied Arts to join E-Teams, when their skills can create an effective balance.

Professor McLeod reports that, during the course’s first semester, the students didn’t work in teams. Rather, they independently came up with product ideas to solve specific problems. “Because of the way their courses have been structured to this point, I wanted to give them a chance to do some work on their own.”

Professor Edwards says, “In the Industrial Drafting and Design program, we don’t have the best opportunities for developing E-Teams that will continue on to commercialization. Most of our students are shooting to get a ‘real’ job. We can try to get them excited about projects in class, but there’s no way to predict their follow-through.”

Innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes
According to Professor McLeod, students in the Ergonomic Design course produced some innovative designs. During the first segment of the class, students solved problems related to the hand. One student designed a combination MP3 player/radio that would fit comfortably into the hand. Stemming from a discussion on carpal tunnel syndrome and computer use, another student designed a “nest” keyboard, where the hand is stationary, using only subtle, joystick-like movement while typing.

In the second segment of the course, McLeod assigned students the task of packaging sunscreen so that it could be easily dispensed, thereby encouraging people to use it more frequently. Some students used a playful approach: one created a belt dispenser for hikers and campers. Several focused on the towelette concept, and one pursued the idea of a time-sensitive product that would change color when it’s time to reapply.

For the last project, students were required to develop a product for a special population. The definition of special population was kept open. One student designed a shower hot air drying system for elderly people and people with limited mobility. The system would blow hot air at the end of the shower to minimize chilling.

Students were limited by time and facilities in their ability to produce working prototypes. Some, however, produced partial prototypes.

Students in the Industrial Drafting and Design program have experienced other invention successes. Professor Edwards says that students have invented and patented a machine that holds, orients and rotates a piece of pottery so that a disabled person can glaze it. They have also created a lawnmower innovation, and are currently negotiating with John Deere over its adoption.

Challenges and lessons learned
Although the Department of Technology at Appalachian State is well equipped with computer, drafting and process labs, there is no dedicated space for Design students to work. ASU's facilities are available to all Technology students, sometimes making it difficult for Design students to schedule the time they need.

Professor Edwards advises other faculty members launching a project such as this to tap into the resources of the Industrial Design Society of America, which she has found to be extremely helpful. She also recommends assembling an advisory board, including people working in the industry. Edwards is still working on this task herself. She says, “It’s not easy to do up here in the mountains, where there isn’t much industry.”

So far she has identified one person for her board: an alumnus, who has already been a tremendous source of advisory and financial support. This person, who works in the binder and packaging industry, has offered $2,500 in prize money, set up as an endowment, for a semi-annual competition. For the competition, students create sketches, models, and sometimes prototypes of products to solve particular packaging design problems. Representatives from the donor’s company judge the entries. “The students come up with beautiful solutions,” says Edwards.

Future prospects
The Ergonomic Design course will be offered as a “selected topics” course for at least one more semester. Professor Edwards hopes that it will soon be added to the curriculum of required courses for all Industrial Drafting and Design majors. She says, “Now that we have a faculty member, and we know that the course is successful and that students want to take it, I think there’s a good chance we can give it a more permanent place in the curriculum.”

Professor Edwards recently secured funds for AV equipment. She hopes that extensive interviews with potential clients and interview documentation will become an integral part of the course. “I envision that they’ll pick a problem, and we’ll be able to send them to, for example, the Arthritis Foundation. Documenting the experiences will make the research more interesting.”

Professor McCleod believes that in future sessions of the Ergonomics Design course, students will take their innovations further. He says, “One of the primary things I want to do differently is to push them a little bit harder to take it to another level. I think they could have gotten more done. Next semester we will work on an idea I got from a retired industrial designer, for a public restroom door latch that you don’t have to touch. I believe this project will lend itself well to teamwork, because it’s something that everyone can relate to.” He adds, “Sometimes it’s difficult to get students to fully empathize with special populations when we’re working in ergonomic design. I’d like to find a system for helping them recognize the problems that special populations face.”

Next semester, McLeod will also begin teaching a Portfolio Development course in the Industrial Drafting and Design program.


  • Baxter, Mike, Product Design: A Practical Guide to Systematic Methods of New Product Development . Chapman and Hall, 1995.
  • Dym, Clive L. and Patrick Little, Engineering Design: A Project-Based Introduction. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000.
  • Eastman-Kodak Company Health, Safety and Human Factors Laboratory, Ergonomic Design for People at Work. Belmont, CA: Lifetime Learning Publications,1986.
  • Green, William and Patrick Jordan, Eds., Human Factors in Product Design: Current Practice and Future Trends. Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 1999.
  • Hauff-Barrons, Thomas, Design: An Illustrated Historical Overview.
  • Koncelik, Joseph, Aging and the Product Environment. Stroudsburg, PA: Hutchinson and Ross Publishing Co., 1982.
  • Kroemer, K.H.E., H.B. Kroemer, and K.E. Kroemer-Elbert, Ergonomics: How to Design for Ease and Efficiency. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994.
  • Pugh, Stewart, Total Design: Integrated Methods for Successful Product Engineering. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1991.
  • Stanton, Neville, Ed., Human Factors in Consumer Products. London: Taylor and Francis, 1998.

Supplementary materials

Course syllabus: Ergonomic Design for Special Populations, Fall, 2000.
Course website: http://www.acs.appstate.edu/dept/tech