Brown University

Identifying Needs and Exploring Solutions in Developing Regions

Brown University, 2010 - $26,500

This grant supports development of a three-part (spring-summer-fall) undergraduate experiential learning curriculum that is part of a larger initiative with corporate partners that comprehensively addresses developing world needs. In the spring, students from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design will form into teams and learn ethnographic observation techniques that will develop their skill in uncovering needs and understanding situational constraints in developing regions. In the summer, they will take ten-week trips to the regions themselves, doing more observation and problem-finding. In the fall, they will create new solutions to problems they encountered. The PI is partnering with IBM to provide platform technologies and other resources that could be adapted to developing world needs.

The students will focus on four themes: healthcare in rural Africa; water in India; communication trends in developing countries; and commerce in informal settlements in Africa.

Anza Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship

Brown University, 2010 - $45,000

Tanzanian women and children spend more than four hours each day collecting and carrying water, firewood, and other heavy goods on their heads. Not only is this practice physically crippling, but it also keeps children out of school and robs families of time that could otherwise be spent on income-generating activities. The Anza team from Brown University has a solution. They have designed a low-cost hand cart that can carry 120 liters of water or 300 pounds of goods — six times more than a woman can load on her head.


Brown University, 2001 - $18,000

Medical professionals rely on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) for a number of daily tasks. PDAs replace medical dictionaries and encyclopedias by providing accurate, convenient reference information, and some PDAs perform as medical instruments, such as EKG monitoring devices. However, even as medical professionals benefit from PDA use, they still must fill out patient forms manually, often transcribing information from the reference software to their PDA. Medical professionals who do not wish to fill out charts by hand must leave their patients in order to retrieve printouts from desktop printers.

This E-Team recognized a need for more advanced technology to help medical professionals transfer information more efficiently from their PDA to patient evaluation forms. The team's solution consisted of a small printer that clips to the back of the PDA. The printer conforms to the shape of most PDAs and prints on both label and printer stock. Using label stock, medical professionals can print out information and affix it quickly and efficiently to patients' forms. Piggyback's printer also has the potential to incorporate additional components, such as Bluetooth, a wireless technology.

The team grew out of Brown University's Entrepreneurship course. The five undergraduates involved in the team had skills and knowledge in engineering, economics, entrepreneurship, computer science, and intellectual property. Two professors with extensive knowledge of engineering and intellectual property protection advised the team.


Brown University, 2001 - $18,000

Handprint was a startup company conceived by an entrepreneurial team at Brown University in conjunction with Zebra Technologies. Handprint developed portable printers unlike any currently available. The first in its line of printers, the Primo, is one of the smallest portable printers on the market, intended for use with wireless web browsing products such as cellular phones and PDAs. With the recent developments in color technologies used in flat panels, PDA screens, and cellular telephones, the demand for wireless color printing capabilities will rapidly expand in the near future.

Axon Potential

Brown University, 2003 - $18,000

Many people wake up to sleep inertia, a groggy condition that negatively affects temper, basic mechanics, and reflexes. While a night's sleep consists of three phases (light, deep and REM sleep), recent studies indicate sleepers suffer from the worst sleep inertia when woken from deep sleep, and the least when woken from light sleep.

Taking advantage of this information, the Axon Potential E-Team developed a smart alarm clock that wakes the user only during light sleep by monitoring eye movements. After setting the latest possible wake-up time, the user goes to bed wearing an eye movement-monitoring band around his or her forehead. The band wirelessly transmits the user's sleep information to the alarm clock for analysis. The device sets a wakeup window based on the information and triggers the alarm only when eye movements indicate the person is in a light stage of sleep.

The E-Team consisted of six undergraduates with majors in cognitive neuroscience, computer science, public and private sector organizations, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Four professors with expertise in psychiatry and human behavior, engineering, technology planning, and marketing guided the students.

Update: The team, now incorporated as Zeo, enjoyed several start-up successes. The company raised two rounds of funding as it completed prototyping and preparing for a product launch. Most recently, Zeo was chosen from among forty-five other companies as the winner of the 2006 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, receiving over $55,000 in cash and services. The company also formed a strong board and group of advisors, including Harvard sleep scientists, the former president of Bose, and several others. Zeo's novel alarm clock has been featured in a number of media, including the Boston Globe, BBC, NPR, New Scientist Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Providence Journal, Yahoo! News and several others. See for more information.

Ultra Low Cost Portable Electronic Notebook for School Children in Underdeveloped Countries

Brown University, 2005 - $19,000

This E-Team developed an inexpensive, collapsible electronic notebook that can be rolled out for viewing and rolled back into compact form to be carried around. The team's goal is to pair the technology with sub-hundred dollar computers currently under development and get them in the hands of African schoolchildren, 48% of which have no access to textbooks. The team's major innovation is in the area of flexible conductors for the collapsible display: their proprietary conductor technology can exceed strains of 20% without loss of electrical performance, compared to the current industry standard of 1-2%.

Novel 3D Cell Culture Device for Drug Discovery and Biopharmaceutical Production

Brown University, 2006 - $15,236

Cells grown in a laboratory have an artificial two-dimensional environment instead of the natural 3D environment, which causes them to lose many of their natural traits, including drug response and protein protection. Inaccurate data from laboratory cells costs the pharmaceutical industry to millions on false positives and drugs that don't work.

This E-Team, known as NapTek Bioscience, has developed a 3D Petri dish known as the P3 gel, which enables scientists to culture cells in 3D. It creates tissue-like spheroids that are more similar to a cell's natural environment and provides much greater control of size and geometry. It is their hope that P3 gel will advance drug discovery and production and quickly gain market share within the cell culture industry.

GlobaMED Devices: Global Anemia Detection & Treatment

Brown University, 2006 - $20,000

Although anemia is a highly preventable disease, it often goes undetected in the developing world due to a lack of labs for testing and the high cost of equipment. To combat the problem, this E-Team is developing AnemiCAM, a rapid, inexpensive, non-invasive method of measuring blood hemoglobin levels. The device, which can be manufactured for under $30, examines the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane lining the inner surface of the eyelid and the exposed surface of the eyeball) and allows measurements to be made in less than ten seconds and with 95% accuracy.

The team founded Corum Medical in 2006, an early stage medical instrument company focused on AnemiCAM (now called LumenI). In 2007 the company signed a license agreement with Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital that gives Corum exclusive worldwide rights to the noninvasive method of measuring hemoglobin.

N-SORB: Providing Safer Environment

Brown University, 2008 - $20,000

Mercury exposures are anticipated to rise with the rapid growth in compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which contain 3-5 mg of mercury per lamp. Recent research at Brown identified a form of elemental selenium (nSe) with the ability to capture mercury vapor—a finding widely reported in the news in the summer of 2008 (New York Times, Discovery, etc.). The team is now developing a technology platform for a variety of mercury management products based around nSe, including box liners for CFL packages and shipping/recycling containers, consumer clean-up kits, air cleaning products for large spills, and dental office products. With NCIIA funding the team is assessing the long-term stability of nSe, researching ways to incorporate nSe into porous or permeable matrices, building and testing prototypes, and performing market research.

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