This E-Team from the Illinois Institute of Technology developed a safety device for railroad tank cars, many of which carry toxic and hazardous commodities. The cars are equipped with a monitoring device that combines the most advanced tiny chemical sensors with modern telecommunications technology and the internet. This integration allows for advanced warning to loading or unloading sites, thus reducing the risk of a dangerous accident. The device can detect small leaks in the tank car valves and fittings, enabling maintenance before any hazard develops.
This E-Team developed a clay-based water purification system for household use in developing countries. The system consists of a ceramic filter element, made of kiln-fired clay treated with colloidal silver, set in a plastic receptacle tank with a plastic lid and spigot. These filters have been produced and promoted in Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia, but have not been widely adopted due to poor financial planning and failures in meeting the expected amount and quality of water produced. The team improved the filtration system and at the same time developed customized training that creates broader awareness, encouraging adoption on a much larger scale, and stimulating local production and support.
SODIS is a water disinfection technique that uses UV radiation to kill microorganisms in the water. Small amounts of contaminated water are put into transparent plastic bottles and exposed to full sunlight for six hours, killing microorganisms through radiation and high temperatures. While the SODIS method has gained some traction in the developing world, it has two major limitations: it cannot disinfect turbid (murky) water, and it does not remove organic chemical contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers.
This E-Team is developing a modification to the SODIS system. Their design consists of two buckets stacked on top of each other, with the first bucket containing layers of gravel, sand, and crushed charcoal, and the second bucket serving as a storage container. The team tested the design and showed that it significantly reduces both the turbidity of the water and the levels of microorganisms, pesticides, and fertilizer components.
This E-Team developed KlarAqua, an inexpensive, bucket-size, clay-based water filter aimed at people in the developing world. During the first NCIIA grant, the team partnered with students at Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, site of the team’s initial target market, and discussed strategies for getting the filter into the hands of the target population. During the second grant, the team conducted a phase II pilot study to assess and demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of the filter and developed the associated educational, training, and marketing materials. Specifically, the team refined the KlaqAqua design, developed a customizable training program on how to use the filter, refined the business model (micro-enterprises manufacturing and selling the filter locally), and developed a long-range plan for broad implementation.
The team selected the town of San Luis Potosi in Mexico as the site of the pilot study due its need for clean water, proximity to Tec de Monterrey, and its representative socioeconomic characteristics.
KlarAqua won first place in the annual Idea to Product Social Entrepreneurship Competition, sponsored by Purdue University and held at San José State University. The $15,000 I2P prize money helped move the innovation closer to market.
This E-Team from the Illinois Institute of Technology has developed a safety device for railroad tank cars, many of which carry toxic and hazardous commodities. The cars would be equipped with a monitoring device that combines the most advanced tiny chemical sensors with modern telecommunications technology and the internet. This integration allows for advanced warning to loading or unloading sites, thus reducing the risk of a dangerous accident. The device can detect small leaks in the tank car valves and fittings, enabling maintenance before any hazard develops
This E-Team originated in the NCIIA-funded course,Invention Project. The team is designing a refrigeration system that uses heat sources to create cooling.
The refrigeration system will be marketed to developing communities where electricity is scarce. Industrialization goes hand-in-hand with the spread of refrigeration, as it creates a way of storing and transporting food. Heat-driven refrigeration systems have unique capabilities. They are capable of using waste heat from a power plant, an industrial process, or an agricultural process to provide cooling at little extra cost, and can also use solar power or energy produced by low-grade fuel.
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.
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.