August is National Inventors Month

August is National Inventors Month, an extended celebration of American invention and creativity. The event, started in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors' Digest magazine, helps promote a positive image of inventors and highlights their real contributions to the world.

Invention is, of course, close to the heart of NCIIA, and in the spirit of National Inventors Month we'll be presenting profiles of our student inventors each week throughout the month of August.

Evan Edwards, EpiCard

Suffering from life-threatening food and environmental allergies, University of Virginia student Evan Edwards and his twin brother Eric carried bulky epinephrine injection devices with them wherever they went. “I was tempted,” admits Evan, “to leave it behind when I went out.” Evan and Eric dreamed up a credit card sized drug injection device--the EpiCard--that could be carried in a wallet and brought out in an emergency to buy enough time to get to the hospital.

After receiving an Advanced E-Team grant in 2000, the brothers designed and built the EpiCard prototype, received a patent and trademark, and formed a company, Intelliject, Inc. They exhibited at NCIIA’s March Madness for the Mind in 2000 (where the above picture was taken), applied for other grants and competitions and, after years of development, scored big in 2009 with an exclusive license worth $230 million with Sanofi-aventis U.S.

A new, more convienent way of delivering potentially life-saving epinephrine is coming your way soon, thanks to the efforts of Evan Edwards, just one of NCIIA's many unique inventors. 


Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, Ecovative Design

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre are two student innovators on a roll. Co-founders of Ecovative Design, the two are making a splash with a duo of new green products: environmentally friendly packaging material and home insulation. The interesting twist is that the products--EcoCradle and Greensulate, respectively--are made primarily from mushrooms. The prodcts are grown, not manfactured, using filamentous fungi (mushroom roots) to bond the mix into almost any shape.

The idea to use mushrooms for eco-friendly products came through a happy mix of personal experience and innovative coursework. Bayer, raised on a Vermont farm, learned gourmet mushroom harvesting from his father, and he 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 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Swersey urged Bayer to develop the idea further, and he soon brought in McIntyre, an RPI student with a keen interest in sustainable technology.

The two meshed, winning Advanced E-Team funding in 2007, taking first place in the inaugural ASME I-Show competition, winning the 21st Century Challenge Competition hosted by Oxford University’s Said Business School, winning 500,000 euros at Picnic Green Challenge 2008, and being featured in a number of media outlets, from Time and CNN to Fast Company and Popular Science.

Packaging peanuts are going as green as ever--another moment of invention making a real impact on the world.