Design and Management of Biomechanical Products is a popular course among students at Michigan State University. In the course, teams of engineering and marketing students study the technical feasibility and market need for their product ideas. The products the teams create must function mechanically with the body and provide tangible benefits for end users.
Some examples of student projects include: All-in One, an improved baby bottle with a vent to eliminate airlock and air bubbles; and Air-Form, a children's structural toy made from inflatable plastic. Before the class received NCIIA funding, students paid for prototyping and research costs with their own money, thereby limiting the scope of their projects. Funding allowed students to fabricate more sophisticated prototypes of their projects. In addition, funding purchased additional machines for the prototyping shop, to accommodate the increased number of E-Teams.
The Department of Technological Studies (DTS) of Wheeling Jesuit College offers a Bachelor of Science in Innovation and Technology. The major is designed to provide students with a broad range of knowledge, skills and experience in processes used to develop successful products for commercial markets. Innovation and Invention is a required class for the Innovation and Technology degree.
In the course, student groups form to design innovative products with commercial potential. Product Development Lab I is an extension of Innovation and Invention, offering students the opportunity to further develop those products. NCIIA funding allowed students to create prototypes of their products, and conduct market research. Student projects included a cold weather breathing mask, an improved automated garage door and opener, and a system for real-time readout of long distance telephone charges for home use.
Mechatronics is the integration of mechanical systems and electronics focusing on sensors and actuators technology. This mechatronics design course takes an interdisciplinary approach by integrating both mechanical and electrical elements of design. The program is a two-course sequence involving about sixty students per semester, in which E-Teams form and design products. Both engineering and marketing students are on each E-Team. Students are encouraged to develop, patent, and market their inventions.
The first course, Mechatronics Design, features an acute emphasis on learning how to interface and control a series of sensors and actuators with a microprocessor. Students form teams, envision a product, and then move onto the second course, Mechatronics Product Development. This course includes students from business-related fields. Teams develop and create plans to market the envisioned product. The culmination of the two-course mechatronics sequence is an event at which students publicly exhibit their products. This event is an opportunity for students to find the encouragement and support to continue developing their innovations.
In GE 1103 Engineering Design, first-year students work in teams of three or four on design practice modules that incorporate a broad range of engineering disciplines to develop solutions to real problems. Problems addressed in the course include humanitarian demining in third world countries, increased ozone in the troposphere, and the multiple problems experienced by refugees in troubled areas like Goma, Zaire.
The class serves several functions: first, it introduces students to the different disciplines within engineering; second, it helps students gain an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of engineering problem-solving; third, the class provides students with the opportunity to address a range of valuable problems; and fourth, it allows the faculty to integrate their personal experiences and expertise with a set of core topics in engineering and design. The course integrates with a campus-wide E-Team recruiting effort throughout the school's Entrepreneurship Program.
IIT launched its Invention and Innovation Project in the fall of 1995. The class curriculum goes beyond the traditional lecture style by focusing on an academic experience based on personal coaching. The idea is to give the students an opportunity to look at engineering projects as an art – the art of invention. To emphasize this point, the class is structured as a studio class, such as those common in architecture and fine arts programs, but with a technical content. There are fifteen students in each studio, which behave as a small, high-tech firm engaged in developing new products.
In one semester, the products must move from concept to design, prototype, patent, and business plan. NCIIA funding provides money to the student teams for project development and commercialization, as well as additional equipment for class use. Thus far the class has produced a team that won Advanced E-Team funding, the Automotive Ozone Pollution Fighter. Also, two products are nearing commercialization: a portable ladder for hunters, and a car seat for infants that massages them as the car moves. The class is taught every semester at IIT. A continuation of support for Dr. Ruiz's class was approved in the October 1996 round.
Through participating in E-Teams in the Invention and Design course at the University of Virginia, students study the invention process and learn how to create environmentally conscious designs and products. With this NCIIA grant, the course modules were altered to incorporate hands-on innovation. The objective was to provide students with enough financial and development support to make significant progress toward patenting and marketing new technologies that both make a profit and make the world a better place to live. This course has generated several Advanced E-Teams, including the Soil Aeration E-Team and the Inventor's Toolkit E-Team. Professor Gorman also works with the Solar Airship E-Team.
This E-Team developed the Cooper Cooler, a shoebox-size device capable of chilling a bottled or canned beverage from room temperature to refrigerator temperature in less than a minute. The device provides rapid, natural cooling of the internal contents using only ice water and a spinning device. The process is perfectly safe for carbonated beverages like beer and soda, which are not agitated and do not explode upon opening.
The idea for the Cooper Cooler was born on a summer day in 1992. Faced with the age-old college dilemma of running out of cold beverages at a party he was hosting, Cooper Union engineering student Greg Loibl was inspired to use his engineering skills to solve the "academic" problem. Loibl worked on the idea as part of his chemical engineering master's thesis, and, sensing commercial promise, co-founded a parent company, Revolutionary Cooling Systems, Inc. The Cooper Cooler experienced strong commercial success and is now sold around the world through major retailers like Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.
To meet the growing need for business skills in technically-trained individuals, Carthage College founded the Entrepreneurial Studies in Natural Science (ESNS) program, an integrated undergraduate program in technical entrepreneurship. The ESNS Program begins with a one-year course covering a range of materials including: accounting and marketing; intellectual property and regulation; personnel management; communications and presentation skills; international business issues; information retrieval and organization; creativity; and an overview of technical careers.
Following the initial course work, students participate in a hands-on internship to prepare them for their senior technology business project. NCIIA funding allows ESNS to integrate E-Teams into the year-long course, by modifying the course work activities, re-ordering and supplementing topics, and reformatting the entire second semester curriculum to shift from individual to team projects. This class was developed with support from a Planning grant in the March 1996 cycle.
The Invention Project is an extension of the Invention and Innovation Project, which received a Course & Program Development grant in the December 1995 cycle to support IIT's innovative curriculum. The program has advanced considerably since the award of its first NCIIA grant. The program generated the Advanced E-Team Automotive Ozone Pollution Fighter, which won the BF Goodrich Invention Award in the undergraduate division; Professor Ruiz was invited to speak about the E-Team course before the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago; the program was awarded a grant from the US Department of Education for curriculum development and dissemination of the "Invention Center" concept, providing more resources for E-Teams; IIT is establishing E-Teams into all levels of its undergraduate program and the university is renovating a 30,000 square foot building for the "Invention Center". With the NCIIA Level II grant, the Invention Project class offered continued support for the development of E-Team projects in the class, and for equipment for the students.
This E-Team originated from the Ethanol Vehicle Challenge sponsored by the United States Department of Energy, General Motors Corporation, and Natural Resources Canada. Ethanol is a cleaner burning fuel than gasoline, and a renewable source of energy. A significant problem with the fuel is that engines fueled with a high percentage of ethanol do not start well at low temperatures. The technology that Cedarville began to investigate was a device that reformulates ethanol into ether and water since ether is highly combustible at low temperatures.
The Cedarville team later discovered a better approach than the ether/water solution. Ethanol motor fuel is "contaminated" with 15% gasoline to make it toxic so that the liquor tax does not apply. The gasoline can be recovered or separated by distillation and then used for the cold start. There are many advantages to this system, as it is less volatile than ether and therefore safer. The distillation system requires much less maintenance than a catalytic reformulation device.
The E-Team for this project comes from a larger team of twenty-nine members who competed in the Ethanol Vehicle Challenge. Team members have skills in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemistry and they have established several working relationships with industry and suppliers