In 2004, NCIIA awarded a Course and Program grant to the University of Colorado at Boulder to support the development of a course now called Engineering for the Developing World. Recently, two students from the first offering of the course launched Manna Energy, LTD, a social venture that has as its first focus implementing an economically sustainable water treatment system in Rwanda. Manna Energy has already won $300,000 from two competitions. Read the press release.
As initially proposed, this team aimed to aid Afghanistan in its rebuilding efforts by training the country's undereducated and underfunded engineering faculty. CU-Boulder offered a number of educational opportunities to Afghani faculty, including scholarships to allow them to complete online CU-Boulder certificate courses (through a subcontract of a USAID grant to Washington State University); loans of online library courses to Kabul University at little or no cost; training from US engineering and business experts on how to develop sustainable engineering and business solutions involving online components, face-to-face meetings, and short courses.
After the initial plan of offering online training for university faculty proved to be untenable because of the technological divide, and hosting several tech entrepreneurship workshops in and around Kabul with varying results, the team partnered with Afghans for Tomorrow (A4T) and this grant took a new direction. In January 2008, CU and A4T piloted schools with fuel briquette facilities that could produce 1000 fuel briquettes a day (a family of five needs 5 briquettes per day). Students attend school in the mornings (with a dedicated teacher who provides lessons up the 5th grade level) and make briquettes in the afternoons. The project started with 20 street children and disabled young persons from Kabul. In July 2008 Afghans for Tomorrow established their first training center. As of spring 2009 hundreds of Afghanis have been trained at 28 established briquette facilities. More than 5,600kg of briquettes were produced in the last six months of 2008 and in 2009 there were 64 Briquette Team graduates. The goal is to employ 5,000 children eventually and the project has been cleared by the Ministry of Children’s Affairs to ensure that it is not in violation of child labor laws. The Ministry is very happy with the project as the work does not require heavy lifting, bending, eye-strain, etc. and all of the workers are paid a decent wage.
Summer 2009 update: What began as a project envisioned to provide on-site training to Afghan faculty and potential social entrepreneurs has turned into a multi-organizational partnership that has created an opportunity for individuals to become gainfully employed, attend school, and take steps toward becoming self-sufficient small business owners. This team has leveraged $72,000 as a start-up grant in August 2008 to pay 30 salaries and is currently completing a feasibility analysis prior to launching an entrepreneurial venture.
This E-Team developed the Halfpipe Helper, an innovative tool for halfpipe maintenance. The Halfpipe Helper is a specialized tool to shape and maintain snow sport terrains, like snowboard parks. Weighing only four and a half pounds, the tool can cut, shave, rake, shovel, evenly distribute and smooth all snow surfaces. The tool effectively combines the function of a shovel and an asphalt rake. It has an adjustable, locking head that pivots through a wide range of motion, and is moved into place with a sliding collar mechanism, similar to a self-wringing mop.
Water scarcity is the biggest challenge of the 21st century, and proper wastewater treatment is critical to public and environmental health because it protects and recycles the limited supply of fresh water. Throughout the world, billions of gallons of industrial and domestic sewage are treated in centralized wastewater facilities through the acceleration of natural biodegradation processes, relying on a balance of healthy microbes for optimal performance. This E-Team developed an innovative biotechnology system to monitor and diagnose common microbiological problems that interfere with the reclamation of wastewater in sewage treatment plants worldwide. Problems often result from undesired blooms of microbes, but many microbes do not yield to cultivation, the traditional method of identification. The team's DNA sequence-based technology allows microbes to be detected and identified without cultivation to determine relative quantities in a sample. Once problem microbes are identified, treatment plants can design and apply the appropriate remedy with quantitative information from the team's Biotechnology System.
This grant supports the development of a new step-in telemark ski binding. Using NCIIA funding the team will further develop and refine a design for a binding that improves on existing technology to provide a superior step-in binding with few moving parts, low weight and applicability to both lift area and backcountry situations. The members of the team include dedicated teleskiers and a group of advisors with appropriate experience and connections. The team will build and test prototypes, develop a market survey and business plan, explore IP opportunities, and ultimately launch the product.
This E-Team-focused course, Innovation for the Community, offers lectures on entrepreneurship, IP, and team development from visiting mentors. E-Teams learn first-hand about product development by designing, building, and testing interactive learning exhibits for K-12 classrooms. Students explore the market potential for such products and evaluate competitor products at the Association of Science-Technology Centers conference. An important part of this course is that students "learn by doing."
The course is offered to sophomore engineering and business students who have not taken the course First-Year Engineering Projects. Experience has taught the PIs that students work harder and produce better products when they serve a real client. Students gain an understanding of how innovation causes people and society to change for the better. The course is part of the Integrated Teaching and Learning (ITL) Program that began as a grassroots, college-wide initiative to reform the engineering curricula to incorporate hands-on, team-oriented, project-based learning