May 2010

2009 Intel ISEF/NCIIA winners

2009 Intel ISEF winners:

Gone with the Windmills: An Analysis of the Effectiveness of an Oscillating Wind Energy Generator
Ryan Cherian Alexander
R.C. Clark High School, USA

A Styrofoam-Decomposing Bacterium from Mealworms
I-Ching Tseng
National Taichung Girl's Senior High School, Taiwan

A Novel Method for Measuring Sonoluminescent Spectra
Lyric Elizabeth Gillett
Cornerstone High Homeschool, USA

Designing and Characterizing Zinc Oxide Nanotube Based Hybrid Solar Cell
Enes Guney & Ahmet Rasit Yildirim
Private Beyliduzu Faith Science High School, Turkey

Harvesting the Heart's Energy Using Piezoelectric Materials: A Comparison of Right Atrial, Right Ventricular, and Left Ventricular Pacing Sites
Christopher Ryan Ho, Alexander Scott Ditter, & Atmananda Mitra Persuad
Champlin Park High School, USA

Using Wasted Heat Energy of a Car with Thermoelectric Modules
Thomas Keith Houser
De La Salle High School, USA

Degradation of Antibiotics in Waste Water
Jan Justra
Gymnasium Brno - Reckovice, Czech Republic

Analysis of Nanofiber-based Scaffolds
Abigail Rose Lewis
Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, USA

Alexis Omar Lopez
Celebration High school, USA

Natural Escherichia Coli 0157:H7 Inhibitors: A Future Innovation in Food Safety
Abbey Elaine Thiel
Isabel High School, USA

Neural Network Modeling: An Innovative Time and Cost Efficient Approach for Anti-Cancer Drug Development
Monica Roy Chowdhury
Blue Valley High School, USA

I2V adds credibility and content to your entrepreneurship program!

If you're wondering how to create visibility and interest around entrepreneurship on your campus, consider hosting an NCIIA Invention to Venture workshop. Read about University of Tennessee Research Foundation's experience with I2V, and how it helped them drive attendance for their event.

Need help moving your start-up forward? NCIIA offers a suite of entrepreneurship training workshops, no matter the stage you're at.

E-Team Sproxil featured in Business Week

Sproxil, a 2007 NCIIA E-Team grantee developing cellphone technology to combat the use of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria and Ghana, was recently featured in Business Week online. Read the story.

Previously, Sproxil had been awarded $10,000 by the Clinton Global Initiative University. Ashifi Gogo, Sproxil's lead technologist, also received an oustanding commitment award.


Solar power to refrigerate milk in India: former E-Team Promethean Power featured on BBC

Former E-Team Promethean Power Systems has been featured on BBC News. Promethean Power Systems has developed a solar-powered refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. It presently focuses its activities in India. Watch the video.




E-Team and BME finalist, Onebreath, a 2010 Pop Sci 'Invention Award Winner'

We've done a lot of work with the Onebreath low-cost ventilator team from Stanford University recently: the team received an E-Team grant in 2009, attended the 2010 March Madness for the Mind showcase of student innovation at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and this week was announced a finalist in this year's BMEidea competition (see story below).

This month, Onebreath and its inventor Matthew Callaghan received further recognition when it was named as a Popular Science 2010 Invention Award winner. Read the story!


Whole Tree taking a wholly different approach

Baylor University E-Team building a business from the bottom up

A standard approach to dealing with problems in the developing world is to develop a specific solution to a specific problem: if people lack access to potable water, you develop a water filter for them to buy and use. Need lighting? Manufacture and sell solar lamps. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, Whole Tree, Inc., a former Baylor University E-Team and the first recipient of Venture Well investment funding (see sidebar on page 4), is using a different tactic: alleviating poverty by providing access to huge markets in the US and abroad.

The challenge, of course, is identifying products that a) US markets want in large quantities, and b) can be supplied by people in the developing world.

That was precisely the challenge facing Baylor engineering professor Walter Bradley a few years ago, when he and post-doctoral student John Pumwa sat down and tried to figure out how to help the rural poor in Pumwa’s home country of Papua New Guinea and countries like it.

Their solution? Find an abundant, renewable resource grown exclusively in countries where the vast majority of people are poor and try to significantly increase the market value of that abundant resource.

The resource they hit on? Coconuts.

It’s not as nutty as it sounds. The coconut palm is ubiquitous throughout the tropical belt that runs around Earth’s equator, and while many uses have been found for the nut the tree produces, as well as the husks that encase the nut’s hard shell, they are currently of such meager commercial value that a typical coconut farmer in the Philippines, the world leader in coconut production, earns only about a dime for every coconut.1

Bradley and his team set out to increase that number. After a couple of months of research, and backed by a 2004 NCIIA E-Team grant, Bradley’s team came up with a suite of coconut-based products designed to up their value: bio-diesel (from coconut oil), pig and chicken feed (from the white “meat”), particle board (from the shells), and anti-erosion matting (from the fuzzy fibers on the shell).

None of the products were quite up to snuff, however. The average coconut farmer makes $500 a year, and Bradley’s team wanted to find uses for the coconut that would bring farmers triple what they made, but none of the envisioned products could accomplish that; for instance, the sale price of coconut oil for cooking was a little more than the price they could sell bio-diesel, so they were actually going backwards.

But as is often the case in entrepreneurship, failure can breed success. Bradley’s team soon switched tracks to focus Bradley, Jim Kephart (Director of Program Development at Baylor Advanced Research Institute) and a local Waco company that supplies unwoven fiber mats to four major automotive companies resulted in the big innovation: using coconut husks for automotive interiors.

That’s right: the coconut car. Bradley and his team partnered with the Waco company to develop technology that converts coconut husk fibers into a safe and suitable replacement for the synthetic polyester fibers used to make trunk liners, floorboards, and interior door covers on cars.

This is potentially a huge market, and investors and grant-makers are paying attention. After incorporating as Whole Tree, Inc., and taking on Baylor graduate students Elisa Guzman-Teipel and Stanton Greer as key leaders, the team won SBIR Phase I funding (Phase II is in the works), and recevied funding from private investors, NCIIA’s Venture Well included.

The market is proving receptive as well; Whole Tree is now working with several major car companies and tier 1 parts-makers to incorporate coconut fiber composites into car parts. “The automotive industry is one of the hardest industries to penetrate,” said Guzman-Teipel, “but we’re almost there.”

They’re also working out their supply chain, with Stanton Greer taking the lead in the SBIR Phase II proposal to develop Whole Tree’s supply chain and Guzman-Teipel working in the field to “make sure that our partners are up to par, make sure everyone’s on the same page, and make sure we get high quality materials no matter what country they’re coming from.”

With as much as 100 million pounds of coconuts potentially going into cars per year and 95% of the world’s coconut supply grown by poor farmers, Whole Tree is nearing its goal of helping the poor by providing them with access to major global markets.

“From the beginning, we’ve wanted to affect the people at the bottom of the pyramid first,” said Guzman-Teipel. “The way that we’ve gone about it isn’t simply to say, ‘Ok, here’s a problem and we’re going to fix it.’ We believe both the US and the developing world can benefit if we design the right products.”

Whole Tree is also an ideal example of how a team can achieve success using NCIIA’s programs to their fullest. Whole Tree has participated in nearly every NCIIA offering, earning two E-Team grants, attending March Madness for the Mind (twice), attending an Advanced Invention to Venture workshop, and ending at the pinnacle: significant investment funding through Venture Well. “NCIIA hasn’t just influenced this project, it’s enabled it," said Bradley.

1. From “Is a Coconut Car Coming Your Way?” by Lee Dye,

2010 BMEidea Winners!

Johns Hopkins University 'Rapid Hypothermia Induction Device' Team wins BMEidea 2010! 

The winners of the 2010 BMEidea Awards were announced June 4, at the Medical Design Excellence Awards ceremony in New York.

First place, winning $10,000: 

Rapid Hypothermia Induction Device (RHID)(Johns Hopkins University)
Improved advanced life support for cardiac arrest victims

Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States, with rates of full functional recovery as low as 4% to 7%. The only known treatment method to improving survival is the rapid induction and maintenance of therapeutic hypothermia (TH), to cool the brain. However, the average delay between the onset of cardiac arrest and the administering of hypothermia in hospitals is about six hours. There is currently a pressing clinical need for a device and method of administering TH in out-of-hospital settings so that this life-saving treatment can be initiated rapidly and safely.

The Johns Hopkins team has developed a device that emergency or ambulance personnel can use to rapidly administer a therapeutic hypothermia treatment to victims of cardiac arrest, to greatly improve their chances of survival upon reaching hospital.

RHID works on the principle of evaporative cooling. When water evaporates from the body, it carries with it a large amount of heat from the body, due to its high heat capacity. Nasal cavities have highly specialized vascular heat exchangers, called 'turbinates', which humidify and warm the air that passes to the lungs. During periods of low humidityand low temperature, blood flow increases to the turbinate’s, allowing for high levels of mucus production. RHID forcibly accelerates the evaporation of water from the nasal cavity by continuously flushing cold, dry air on its surface, cooling the brain until the patient can be administered  intensive care TH treatment at hospital.

Second place, winning $2,500:

Onebreath: Low-cost Ventilator (Stanford University)

A low-cost ventilator designed to treat acute respiratory distress patients in low-resource, pandemic and emergency environments

The recent H1N1 pandemic has ignited concern in the healthcare community over the state of 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, tens of millions of people could die from respiratory distress. Unfortunately, the US does not have enough ventilators to support patients with respiratory distress in even a mild flu pandemic, and it is currently cost-prohibitive to stockpile a sufficient quantity of these devices. When considered on a global scale, the disparity in pandemic resources between wealthy and impoverished nations is alarming. Many countries already face an extreme shortage of ventilators, even in the absence of a pandemic. For example, in the United States there are approximately 205,000 ventilators for a population of 300 million. In India, where the population exceeds 1.1 billion, there are only 35,000 intensive care ventilators available.The Stanford team has developed a portable, low cost ventilator ($300) designed for adult and pediatric respiratory distress patients. The device is designed to be easy to repair and intuitive enough for non-professionals to use.

Third place, winning $1,000:

Natural Orifice Volume Enlargement (NOVEL) Device (University of Cincinnati)

This team has developed a device to improve urogynecological procedures, by providing surgeons with better visibility and access to deep target tissues.

Pelvic organ prolapse is a physical condition in which the uterus and/or vaginal vault becomes detached from its normal position in the peritoneal cavity.Patients suffering from pelvic organ prolapse often experience pain, incontinence, recurrent infection, and even loss of sexual function.  Pelvic organ prolapse affects over 6 million women worldwide, and most of these patients end up living with the condition due to limitations in prolapse repair surgery.  Over 100,000 vaginal prolapse repair surgeries are conducted in the United States annually.  These repair surgeries are typically open procedures with limited success and high post-operative revision rate.


Honorable mentions:

  • Design: A Novel Device for Pacemaker Lead Anchorage, University of MI, Ann Arbor
  • Global Impact: MRAD - Malaria Retinopathy Automated Detector, Tulane University
  • Social Impact: Development of a Diagnostic Instrument for Early Pressure Ulcer Diagnosis, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Improved Eye Drop Applicator, Johns Hopkins University
  • CervoCheck: Preterm Labor Monitor, Johns Hopkins University
  • Cortical Concepts, Johns Hopkins University


About BMEidea
The teams' entries were evaluated by judges drawn from academia and industry. Winning entries must solve a clinical problem; meet technical, economic, legal, and regulatory requirements; feature novel and practical designs; and show potential for commercialization. Submissions are judged on technical feasibility, clinical utility, economic feasibility and market potential, novelty and patentability, potential for commercialization and benefit to quality of life and care.

Prizes include cash awards in the amount of $10,000 (first prize), $2,500 (second prize), and $1,000 (third prize), and product development and commercialization resources and training.

The 2011 competition will open in September 2010.


Opportunities for Students



NCIIA provides the funding, training, support and resources you need to advance your idea or venture, no matter the stage of development you're at.

Where are you?


Invention to Venture workshop

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?  Invention to Venture (I2V) is a one-day workshop on the basics of technology entrepreneurship, with presentations by successful entrepreneurs in your area. Fast-paced and fun. Learn more at

Get involved: Want to attend an I2V? Check the events listing to the left. Host an I2V! Contact us for details.


Research to Innovation (R2I) workshop

Translate your research into innovations. Research to Innovation is a suite of workshops designed to help university innovators translate their research into marketable innovations. Learn more

Get involved: Bring R2I to your institution! Contact us for details.


Advanced Invention to Venture workshop

Accelerate your venture.  If you’re serious about moving your venture forward, Advanced Invention to Venture (AI2V) is for you. You’ll spend four days receiving instruction, doing exercises, practicing pitching and interacting with qualified coaches to develop and articulate a strategic plan for your venture. Learn more here.

Get involved: Want to attend an AI2V? Check the events listing to the left.Host an AI2V!  Contact us for details!


VentureLab workshop

NCIIA's latest venture accelerator!

VentureLab is a highly experiential and immersive program developed and designed to enhance the success of your business idea: evolve your business strategy, sales channels and marketing and better understand the financial mechanics of your venture.

You'll get a plan and a set of tools that will help you grow your business for years to come.

Get involved: Contact us for details about VentureLab.

More about our first VentureLab, held in Boston in April 2010.



E-Team grants

Move your technology idea or venture towards commercialization with this early stage funding. Awards are up to $20,000; deadlines in May and December.

Get involved: Learn more!


BMEidea competition

Teams of US-based biomedical engineering student are judged on a complete commercialization strategy - design, product innovation, market need, regulatory pathway, sales strategy, and economic issues. First prize $10,000. Deadline in April.


BMEStart competition

Teams of US-based undergraduate biomedical and bioengineering students are judged on design and potential for commercialization. First prize $10,000. Deadline in May.



Venture Well

Take it to the next level.  Venture Well provides venture development and seed investment to university start-ups that will change the world. We provide advice and funding to ventures that offer scalable, market-oriented solutions to health and environmental problems. Learn more.


Contact us for information and advice on how to advance your idea or venture.

James Barlow  Humera Fasihuddin

Patricia Boynton  Mary Secor




Recently Funded E-Teams


Move your venture forward with these resources:




Publications for Students


Companies Launched:

NCIIA grantees and award winners have launched more than 75 companies. Check these here



NCIIA has funded 347 student entrepreneurship teams that have resulted in:

These businesses have leveraged more than $102 million in additional funding.







Insulating your home with...mushrooms?

RPI E-Team Ecovative Design challenges the norm in the building industry

Open up the walls of just about any new home and you’ll find the same thing: two sheets of plywood sandwiching an insulating foam core. Known as Structural Insulating Panels, or SIPS, the approach is gaining popularity in the building industry because it’s cheap and effective. Unfortunately the foam insulation in SIPS is also environmentally damaging, requiring petroleum to produce, and it isn’t biodegradable, eventually ending up in landfills.

An E-Team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is looking to change all that with an environmentally friendly, cradle- to-cradle insulating material they call Greensulate. The twist? Greensulate is made primarily from oyster mushrooms. Not exactly your typical approach to home insulation, but challenging the status quo and coming up with novel approaches is a trademark of the growing green building industry—and of innovators in general.

So how does it work? You start by combining perlite (a material used in potting soil), vermiculite (a mineral), water, starch, hydrogen peroxide, and mushroom cells. Pour the mixture into a panel mold, put it in a dark place, and wait. Over the course of one to two weeks, the mushroom cells digest the starch and form mycelium, tiny unicellular fibers similar to the roots of a tree. When the fibers intertwine, they form a rigid insulating material.1 Dry the panel to prevent fungal growth and voila: you’ve got a low-cost, organic composite board that requires no petroleum to produce and biodegrades at the end of its life cycle.

The idea to use mushrooms for insulating material came through a happy mix of personal experience and innovative coursework. Eben Bayer, co-founder of the team, was raised on a Vermont farm and learned gourmet mushroom harvesting from his father. Bayer put that knowledge to good use in school, hitting upon the idea for Greensulate while working on a sustainable housing assignment in Burt Swersey’s Inventor’s Studio course at RPI. Swersey urged him to develop the idea further, and Bayer soon brought in Gavin McIntyre, an RPI student with a keen interest in sustainable technology.

The two meshed, quickly winning Advanced E-Team funding, taking first place in the inaugural ASME I-Show competition, and winning the 21st Century Challenge Competition hosted by Oxford University’s Said Business School.

“Winning the E-Team and other funding was a critical step for us in building our business,” said Bayer. “It came at exactly the right time, as we were making the leap from an institutional research product to a growing company.”

The two graduated from RPI, but instead of taking jobs with other companies they incorporated as Ecovative Design ( to pursue the opportunity full-time. Why go the risky entrepreneurial route instead of taking more secure jobs?

“The excitement of doing something great for the world,” according to Bayer. “It was an intimidating choice at the time, but we’re both thrilled to have made it.”

For McIntyre, the final factor in deciding to start a company around the technology was the Advanced Invention to Venture program hosted by the NCIIA. “The knowledge that we gained from the workshop gave us such a strong footing to initiate the venture,” he said.

What’s on the docket for Ecovative now that they’re a real company? For one, they’re working on ASTM compliance certification for the insulating board, work that will be completed this summer and fall under a grant from the State of New York. Further research and development still needs to be done on the board itself, and the team estimates it won’t be commercially available for at least a year. They are, however, actively pursuing commercialization and manufacturing partners.

And Ecovative isn’t stopping at green insulating material. Bayer and McIntyre view Ecovative Design as a research firm dedicated to generating a suite of environmentally friendly products for a variety of markets. They made their first real sale recently: a plant pot for home gardens that rapidly breaks down once placed in the soil, acting as a fertilizer.

Next in the pipeline is Negative Volume, a green replacement for styrofoam packaging material. Negative Volume is produced using agricultural byproducts and is entirely compostable, so when you’re done unpacking that new computer, toss the peanuts in the garden. They make excellent fertilizer. It’s that kind of sustainable thinking that could very well guide Ecovative Design to great success.


1. From “Organic Insulation” by Susan Cosier,

E-Team Lifeserve Innovations wins e'ship awards

2008 E-Team and recent VentureLab participant Lifeserve Innovations is tearing up the entrepreneurship scene in Ohio. The team, which is developing and commercializing an emergency tracheostomy device, recently won the Goldstein Caldwell and Associates Pitch Day Competition, and the Annual Launchtown Entrepreneurship Award, also in Cleveland. More details.

The team is developing the SMART Kit, which will contain all the tools necessary to perform a percutaneous tracheostomy in the field. The vital component of the kit is LifeServe's SnakeBite Dilator. This device transforms a percutaneous trachestomy from a timely and involved surgery to a fast and user-friendly procedure. See more in the video!