Design of Mechanical Systems

NCIIA supported development of a new capstone design course at RPI that utilizes product concepts developed by MBA students in the business school. Projects are unrestricted and teams seek NCIIA Advanced E-Team grants for further development. Product ideas are thoroughly researched prior to the development of prototypes and full business plans. Teams are formed from classes of MBA and engineering students

Introduction to Design and Inventive Engineering

This project supports a new course at George Mason University focused on team-based problem solving in a civil engineering context. In the course, E-Teams form and solve a pre-established problem, e.g., stormwater runoff pollution control in urban areas. Experts on the particular subject are brought in to consult to the E-Teams; these experts attend lectures, make class presentations, and interact with students on a regular basis. Students are encouraged to create innovative designs and aim for commercialization.

Strategic Invention

NCIIA supported the incorporation of E-Teams into a business strategy and planning course at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Students develop projects based on innovations they develop themselves or obtain the rights to develop. Groups call on the network of experts the university has assembled for market assessment mentors. No prototypes are built in the course, but business plans are written and presented to a panel of entrepreneurs, and the option to continue work as Advanced E-Teams is available

GEEN 1400: Designing for the Community: Practical Multidisciplinary Engineering Design Courses

This project supports the integration of E-Team development into an existing course in the Integrated Teaching and Learning Lab (ITLL), a progressive, high profile program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The course currently requires students to complete group work for clients; the focus of this project is the development of more entrepreneurship-related content and a greater focus on commercialization within the course.

EE1185, Microprocessor Systems

University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

The Microprocessor Systems annual engineering course considers the interfacing between microprocessors and computers in general, which normally leads to communications with and control of many different types of physical devices and technologies. Students are required to consider all aspects of design, manufacture, and marketing. With NCIIA funding, two E-Teams have been generated in the class - Argus and EarTronX. Each E-Team was challenged to design a prototype device for locating lost hearing aids. Both prototype devices included a target in the hearing aid, and a locator implement. The E-Teams presented and discussed each prototype with five industry experts and entrepreneurs and submitted individual designs as a part of national and local competitions. The E-Teams plan to apply for Advanced E-Team funding.

Surgical Dustbuster

University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

Many surgical procedures require the removal of fluid from the surgical site using a vacuum system. The typical source of suction in the surgical field is a large tube connected to a wall vacuum at one end of the operating room. Because the suction system's tubes run across the floor of the operating room and need to be maneuvered like a garden hose, the system is ungainly and awkward. To address these problems, the Surgical Dustbuster E-Team is developing a prototype portable, freestanding unit for removing fluid where wall suction is unavailable, or large capacities for fluid collection are not required. This device incorporates a surgical vacuum with greater maneuverability and lower cost, making it suitable for use in outpatient settings as well as traditional operating rooms.

Senior Project Design

For the past twenty-five years, Drexel's College of Engineering has required its students to take a Senior Project Design course, taught by a team of faculty from each engineering department save chemical engineering. Within the course, students work in teams, developing solutions to problems of practical and societal importance, while at the same time learning about intellectual property, ethics, professionalism, and design. What was missing from Drexel's Senior Project Design course, in the opinion of the professors, was an entrepreneurial component. With NCIIA funding, the engineering faculty team teaching the course were able to modify the class curriculum to include entrepreneurship by exposing students to entrepreneurial success stories from other engineers, and targeting E-Team projects with commercial potential for further project development.

Climbing High to Fitness

Northeastern University

The Climbing High to Fitness E-Team has created the Wall Climber 2000 (WC2000), an indoor rock climbing simulator for use as a training instrument and low impact exercise machine. The WC2000 consists of a collapsible climbing deck that rotates with a speed and incline chosen by the user. The hand and foot holds, made of rubber to simulate a rocky surface, change as the climbing deck rotates, according to the difficulty level chosen by the user.

At this stage, the Climbing High to Fitness E-Team is creating an advanced prototype of the WC2000. In addition, the team is working to better understand the exercise equipment market, by conducting market research and drafting a business plan. In the fall the E-Team plans to apply for a patent. The Climbing High to Fitness E-Team originated in a team based design course at RPI and is composed of five engineering students.

Invention: Creative and Legal Perspectives

Invention: Creative and Legal Perspectives is the first course on invention offered at Ramapo College. The course integrates students from a variety of disciplines, including science, business, and the arts. With a NCIIA grant, Professors Anderson and Sherman revised the curriculum to extend over two semesters. In the first semester, the professors divide students into teams of four and challenge each group to identify a problem in daily life and solve it with an inventive solution. Students begin this process by listing daily problems and annoyances they would like to eliminate. After this initial exercise, students then form new teams and work together on invention ideas culled from students and faculty. Each team applies its newly gained knowledge in the course to its own invention, constructively reducing the invention to practice. The goal of the course is to motivate students to invent and to supply them with the minimum legal and business know-how they need to produce, market, and protect an invention.


University of Massachusetts Amherst

The OmniSport E-Team has designed the SideWinder, an electric wheelchair capable of moving in any direction while the rider faces forward. Using any number of compatible input control devices such as a joystick, mouse, track ball, or voice control the rider controls the wheelchairs motions through a track ball drive system. The increased mobility offered by this design provides the rider with the choice of participating in a wider variety of sports and offers greater accessibility in the office and home.

The OmniSport E-Team is now in the process of researching the market potential of the SideWinder and determining the feasibility of the technology. The team originated in an introductory engineering design course, and consists of three engineering students, and a faculty advisor. The team is recruiting advisors with adaptive equipment expertise.

Invention and Entrepreneurship

California State University-Fresno

With NCIIA funding, Professors Timothy Stearns and Ed Sobey collaborated to create Invention and Entrepreneurship, a prototype for a permanent course challenging students to create a business to invent and sell toys. In the course, students from the Sid Craig School of Business, the schools of Education and Human Development, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Agriculture and Technology, and Arts and Humanities form E-Teams and learn how to work creatively in those teams, designing, building and testing mock-up toys, while developing a comprehensive business plan. The inventions and plans are presented to business leaders, venture capitalists, inventors, patent attorneys, and course participants.

The toys developed in the course include: Paragear, a launcher with a parachute attachment that fits to the back of an action figure; The Orb, a sphere that balances on a pedestal with pegs placed in the orb; The Ringer, a ring toss game that builds hand-eye coordination; and Stack-O, a marble game.

Miniature Ice Resurfacer

University of Virginia-Main Campus

The Miniature Ice Resurfacer E-Team has developed an innovative ice resurfacing machine called the Ice Chief. The Ice Chief is a lightweight, portable, and relatively inexpensive machine intended to maintain quality ice surfaces on private skating rinks or ponds. The device is towed behind a standard garden tractor and will be priced to make it accessible to small municipalities or individuals with access to a pond or artificial rink. To date, the E-Team has built a working prototype that successfully cleans an ice surface; collects debris; then resurfaces the ice in one pass. The E-Team plans to continue prototype testing and refine the design, while writing a business plan in partnership with the RPI Incubator Program. The team is also conducting a patent search and prepare a patent application.

The Miniature Ice Resurfacer E-Team originated in an RPI engineering design class. The team consists of six engineering majors, several with minors in economics or computer science. They plan to launch a business to market this product in 1998.

Student Originated Software

The Evergreen State College

Student Originated Software (SOS) is a multi-disciplinary, year-long, full-time program offered each year at The Evergreen State College. In SOS, students gain the skills and in-depth practical experience of working in teams on the planning, management, design, implementation, and installation of a major software project by creating software for actual clients. Each E-Team organizes itself, finds its project and "real world" client, prepares a feasibility study, and completes the software development. SOS stresses innovation and creativity, and a multi-disciplinary approach to software development. NCIIA funding strengthens the market research portion of the curriculum, supports E-Team projects, and allows Evergreen to update equipment for the course.

InterSecT Project

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Current search engine technology on the internet will often provide the user with several thousand entries, leaving it to the user to find the most valuable information. In addition, the user interfaces currently available can be difficult to use. In response to these problems, this E-Team has begun development of the Internet Secretary Tool (InterSecT), a software package which serves as a highly personalized, smart web browser. The InterSecT browser works to continually learn and relearn the likes and dislikes of the user. When prompted to find a specified piece of information, InterSecT accesses an array of internet search engines, chooses the results it judges the user most values (based on what it has learned about the user's habits) and reports back. With each completed search, the selective abilities of the personal browser become more refined and gain accuracy.

InterSecT utilizes several cutting edge technologies, such as neural net programming, to create an innovative, powerful, and user-friendly end product. This product makes the internet easier to use and extends its benefits to those with little or no computing experience, and/or limited hardware resources.

The InterSecT E-Team was founded by Josh Lifton, an honors student at Swarthmore College who is pursuing a double major in physics and mathematics and a minor in computer science, during his semester at Hampshire College as a Lemelson Fellow. When Josh returned to Swarthmore, he applied for an Advanced E-Team grant to continue his advanced project working with another computer science student, faculty from Swarthmore and Hampshire Colleges, and four technical and business advisors. Josh is now in the process of recruiting business students to help him conduct more extensive market research and develop a business plan.

Design and Management of Biomechanical Products

Michigan State University

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.

Virtual Security Research

St. John's University - $8500.00

The Virtual Security Research (VSR) E-Team recognized a lack in affordable and creative security systems for the Internet. To fill the gap, the team evaluated existing software solutions and made improvements in usability, user interface, and security.

The team received second prize for their business plan in Northeastern University's $60k business plan competition. They then founded Virtual Security Research in 1998, and have since been focused on providing quality network and application security consulting services. They have clients in the financial services and commercial software sectors

TEC 210 - Product Development Lab I

Wheeling Jesuit University

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.

Ergonomic Design for Special Populations

This grant helped introduce E-Teams into a design course focused on developing new technologies for people with disabilities. Teams of students worked with clients to create new assistive technologies to suit their client's needs. A seminar and practicum approach emphasizing teamwork made E-Teams central to the course pedagogy. Students were encouraged to pursue innovative solutions to design challenges

Developing Solutions to Real World Problems

Northeastern University

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.

HP Design Team

Clarkson University

The HP Design Team has developed an educational software game to teach middle school students about the connection between humans and nature. The game simulates Adirondack Park in New York state. In the game, the player is the park manager, and has to solve the problems posed in different park simulations. Through the problem-solving process, students learn how people affect the park economically, environmentally, and socially and how these aspects are interdependent. Students also learn the park's history by means of a slide show.

Turning Students into Inventors (TCC315)

University of Virginia-Main Campus

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.

Entrepreneurial Studies in the Natural Sciences

University of Massachusetts Amherst

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.

MGRS 487 Entrepreneurship/ EE491 Senior Design

The Evergreen State College

With NCIIA grant funding, a new product design course was created at the University of Nevada/Reno by Professors M.S. Fadali and R.C. Barnes. By combining EE 491 Senior Design and MGRS 487 Entrepreneurship, the Entrepreneurship and Senior Design course prepares students for today's marketplace. Within the course, multi-disciplinary groups of engineering and business students form companies and are asked to build a product and investigate its market potential. To provide students with a concise but clear representation of the organization required to accomplish this task, students use the "Hierarchical Process Modeling" (HPM). HPM requires the collection of considerable information, yielding insights into the operation and potential of an organization as a whole. NCIIA funding provided students with HPM software and equipment, prototype development money, and legal assistance with patent searches.

E-Tech E-Teams

Swarthmore College

Springfield Technical Community College is developing a new course, E-Tech E-Teams, to generate student E-Teams. Within the course, E-Teams conduct research on engineering technologies and analyze the findings; carry out experiments in product development; and then identify, create, and market new products. The content of the course curriculum includes mathematics, written/oral communication, historical aspects of design, scientific principles and business knowledge. E-Teams work with entrepreneurs from the on-campus technology business incubator in the areas of telecommunications and optics. The courses and materials developed at STCC are used as the basis for a model for a technical entrepreneurship curriculum to be offered to a consortium of State Community Colleges.

Concurrent Engineering & Engineering Design

Drexel University

The High Pressure Optical Cell (HPOC) is a research tool that enables the modification of food proteins, decreased freezing temperatures and dewatering foods. HPOCs are also used as a tool in the study of lipid/protein interactions, protein denaturation, virus dissociation, and drug-membrane interactions. Any innovations in HPOC technology will impact future research in biomedical, pharmaceutical and food science research.

The Concurrent Engineering & Engineering Design E-Team has developed a new HPOC design, enabling researchers to introduce a second component to the original sample while both components are under pressure. This innovation allows researchers to observe initial molecular interactions in real time and at high pressure via fiber optics, and in the process gather previously unobtainable data.

MECH 452: Design Synthesis

University of Nevada-Reno

Mechanical Engineering 452: Design Synthesis is an existing senior design course at University of Nevada/Reno. In the past, the course has focused on teaching students the fundamentals of product development. With NCIIA funding, the course has been revised to include product innovation, elements of entrepreneurship and invention, and early stage E-Teams, modeled after Professor John Kleppe's well-structured Electrical Engineering E-Team class at UNR. Each E-Team functions as a start-up company, creating their own organizational structure, and submitting a pseudo-business license. The teams then construct a proposal detailing the team's ideas and begin product development. Student teams compete within the class and are evaluated on their commercial potential as well as their technical content.

New Product Development and Venturing

This project supported development of New Product Development and Venturing, a course offering students the opportunity to design a product and take it to market. The course is modeled on the E-Team concept. Students design a new product, develop a feasibility study, learn about patenting and seed capital sources, and work in a team with product-oriented entrepreneur mentors. Each E-Team makes two formal oral presentations to a panel of entrepreneurs and professors: one on its business feasibility study and the other on its product design. An award is presented to the E-Team with the best presentation

Automotive Ozone Pollution Fighter

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach, 1997 - $18,000

The need to run an internal combustion engine more efficiently and with minimal environmental effects is the driving force for this E-Team's ozone generator development project. With the introduction of ozone into an engine's intake gases, combustion becomes leaner. However, because ozone cannot be stored in tanks, it has to be produced on-board the vehicle. The E-Team has developed an innovative ozone generator that contains no moving parts and is compact, fitting into existing vehicles with little or no modification to the vehicle.

The team is currently evaluating the effects of adding ozone to a 1996 Chrysler mini-van that has been converted to run on propane. This device mitigates the inherent problems of high initiation energy required by high octane alternative fuels and creates a cleaner burning engine.

The Automotive Ozone Pollution Fighter E-Team began as a student team working on a natural gas vehicle as an independent project with Professor Francisco Ruiz as the team's faculty advisor. As the project progressed, several of the members participated in Professor Ruiz's NCIIA Invention and Innovation class in the spring of 1996. The project was one of the first to emerge from the class, with an E-Team of seven engineering students. The E-Team received the 1996 B.F. Goodrich Inventor's Prize in the undergraduate category.

Soil Aeration: Use of Windmills to Regenerate Anaerobic Soils by Active Aeration

Carthage College

In areas where organic waste products have accumulated in excess, the oxygen in the soil is often depleted. When this occurs the soil becomes anaerobic and waste material degrades very slowly, and can prove to be toxic. This E-Team has created and refined a new windmill design intended to aerate anaerobic soils, thereby restoring artificially anoxic environments. Applications for soil re-aeration with the compact, inexpensive windmill are rejuvenating coastal dredging lands, constructed wetlands, and landfills. The market envisioned for this aeration system includes private property and government restoration projects.

During the grant period, the team is completing a patent application, and field-testing prototypes with several potential customers at sites around the country. The Soil Aeration E-Team originated in Professor Michael Gorman's Invention and Design course at the University of Virginia.

Project on the History of Black Writing

University of Virginia-Main Campus

The Project on the History of Black Writing E-Team is developing a omprehensive bibliographic database of African-American novels in an interactive learning environment on CD-ROM and, by license, on the internet. A prototype CD-ROM is under development that includes author biographies, full texts of novels, photographs, pointers to critical sources and advanced search tools. Much of the literature on the CD-ROM is now out-of-print, making this a valuable resource. The team intends to develop a range of indexed bibliographic offerings in an electronic format for distribution to scholars and libraries worldwide. Initial market surveys indicated substantial interest in the product among academic and municipal libraries.

Students and faculty from Northeastern University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University collaborate on different aspects of the project, calling on the strengths of each institution, in the first virtual E-Team. The content is provided by NEU, the programming by UVA and JMU.

This E-Team joined the Project on the History of Black Writing eleven years after it was founded by the Cooperative Research Network in Black Studies. Since 1984 the Cooperative has compiled an extensive bibliography of writing by African-Americans in the last century and a half, including over 2,000 records. The work of the E-Team makes this previously inaccessible bibliographic resource available to a wider audience.

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