university of pittsburgh

Technology Innovation for People with Disabilities

University of Pittsburgh, 2010 - $25,950

Assistive Technologies (ATs) can be the single most important factor in determining whether people with disabilities can participate fully in society. However, the abandonment rate for new ATs is disconcertingly high, with inappropriate design for the user being one of the most common reasons for failure.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL), which marries efforts on research- and user-driven innovations with the expertise of outside business collaborators, has had success commercializing ATs in the past, with five spin-offs to its name. This proposal seeks funding to augment a current NSF-funded HERL program, called Research Experience for Undergraduates, to support projects and educational activities related specifically to AT product development done by undergraduates. NCIIA funding will be used to support multidisciplinary teams of undergraduates working on innovation-focused projects, workshops focused on design innovation and commercialization, and tours of local companies that support early-stage product design in the AT industry.

The ultimate goal of the expanded program is the development of highly promising AT products that can be launched after completion of the NCIIA-funded project, improving the quality and increasing the quantity of highly impactful ATs.

E-Team to Develop an Oxygen Flow Indicator for Hospital Transport

University of Pittsburgh, 2001 - $13,085

The Center for Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that some patients experience decompensation during transport while on oxygen support. Decompensation is a life-threatening problem that occurs when a patient's oxygen supply tubing develops a kink or when oxygen depletes within the storage cylinders. No device exists to indicate the flow of oxygen through a patient's tube. In fact, the only current method of determining if a patient is experiencing decompensation is to see if their face turns blue.

In response to this need for an oxygen flow monitor, this E-Team developed the Spindicator, a device made up of a cylindrical tube, an inline impeller, and gas inlet/outlet. Oxygen flowing through the tube forces the impeller to spin. To make impeller monitoring easy, the team painted the impeller two distinct colors that a person can detect from a minimum of six feet away. If the device fails, the inline impeller design facilitates oxygen flow to the patient. The Spindicator attaches to the nasal attachment or face mask just below the patient's face.

At a preliminary survey at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, 72% of those surveyed expressed extreme support of the product. Across the US, about 1,500 hospitals need to provide oxygen to approximately sixty-six million patients. If the Spindicator sold for $5 to $10, hospitals would pay only $250,000 to $440,000 each year for the product.

The team originated from a NCIIA-funded class, Product Realization. Three undergraduate students, with skills in mechanical and industrial engineering, worked on the team. They worked with four engineering school advisors and two medical/industry advisors. One of these advisors is a doctor from UPMC Presbyterian and headed the clinical trial for Spindicator.

An E-Team to Develop an Image Quality Analyzer for Endoscopes and Laparoscopes

University of Pittsburgh, 2001 - $13,000

According to the American Hospital Association, there are 6,400 hospitals in the US, and most of them own endoscopic equipment. Endoscopes and laparoscopes are narrow, tube-shaped optical devices that allow surgeons to see inside a patient's body without making incisions. The devices minimize trauma in surgery and therefore shorten patient recovery time. However, scope performance depends on the image quality they deliver, and many factors contribute to image quality deterioration, including collision with alien objects, poor maintenance, and the heat and chemicals used in cleaning and sterilization procedures. Currently, hospitals have no tool to ensure scope performance by evaluating and monitoring image quality.

To fill this need, this E-Team developed an image quality analyzer that facilitates efficient and automatic evaluation of the image quality of scopes. With the analyzer, hospitals can ensure the quality of endoscopic surgery and track the performance of scopes over time. Performance data shows optimal maintenance procedures and when replacement is necessary.

The E-Team consisted of two graduate students in engineering. They worked with an industrial engineering faculty member and the director of minimal invasive surgery at the Magee-Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

JackHeat: A Lightweight, Fashionable, Self-Heating Jacket

University of Pittsburgh, 2001 - $14,200

JackHeat is a self-heating, lightweight jacket. The E-Team successfully developed a  prototype, made possible through the discovery of a new carbon-based material, Gorix, which allows heat to pass through evenly while using a minimal amount of battery power.

The E-Team consisted of two students from computer engineering and a third from marketing. Their faculty advisors were three engineering professors and one from marketing. One of their three industry advisors is the inventor of Gorix. They hope to enter the market as the first self-heating, general consumer-oriented jacket, offering a variety of additional skins for increased profitability.

An E-Team to Develop a Keyless Key

University of Pittsburgh, 2000 - $14,625

This E-Team developed a unique security system that allows a person who is permitted entry through a door to have access without requiring the use of a key, card, or other device. The device is a small mountable electronic chip or substrate that can be placed on the back of a watch or other personal item. The chip communicates with the base station lock to unlock the door.

Three undergraduate students were on this E-Team, with skills in electrical engineering, manufacturing, object-oriented solutions, advanced product development and testing, and understanding of interfacing and systems integration. Three faculty advisors in electrical and industrial engineering assisted the team.

An E-Team to Design a Very Low Power Network

University of Pittsburgh, 1998 - $11,500

This E-Team developed a prototype for a system that establishes a network of wireless devices within a small area using very low power and RF radio transmission. The transmission distances may range from a few inches to a few meters.

Communication over short distances with very low power creates a wide array of new applications of RF technology. The applications for this technology are diverse, ranging from wireless patient monitoring devices to food safety monitoring for the meat industry. The technology originated in a funded E-Team course EE1185, Microprocessor Systems.

The E-Team plans to develop a prototype and perform a market study on the device. Members of the E-Team are computer and electrical engineering students.

Wear Simulator for Testing Ankle Joint Replacement Components

University of Pittsburgh, 1998 - $16,800

This E-Team designed, constructed and evaluated a prototype wear simulator for the testing of ankle joint replacement components. The wear testing of joint replacement implants is important for evaluating the durability of the components and for studying the wear particles that are generated. Wear testing machines are available for hip and knee implants, but not the ankle implant, which is a new product.

Solar Ease

University of Pittsburgh, 2009 - $20,000

While solar energy is an attractive option to provide the green energy of the future, it remains burdened by high installation costs and hasn’t been as widely adopted as it should be. Part of the problem is the physical process of installation: solar panels require mounting brackets, outside breakers and ground connections, and holes through walls for the wires. This E-Team is looking to reduce the cost of installing solar panels by developing a method to transmit solar energy wirelessly from outdoor solar panels to an indoor storage unit. The team is building on a novel wireless technology called WiTricity, which is capable of transmitting energy through walls without direct cable connections. With NCIIA funding the team will create a proof-of-concept prototype, research target markets and applications for the technology, and move toward commercialization by writing a business plan and securing IP.

Beyond Design for the Environment: Improving Products, Processes, and Actions

University of Pittsburgh, 2007 - $36,130

Design for the Environment (DfE) is a specific set of design practices aimed at creating eco-efficient products and processes. Having recently begun to develop and teach a handful of sustainability courses, Pitt faculty have recently been tasked with forming the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering's Sustainability and Green Design Group (SGD).

With this grant, Pitt faculty will develop a new semester-long DfE course aimed at introducing students to DfE tools, real world industry sustainability challenges, and lab experiences. The course will culminate in the judging of multidisciplinary student team business plans and proposed projects. Winning teams will be granted summer residencies, a two-month period in which they will implement their project and create a prototype. Teams will partner with local green organizations and industries who will serve as potential sites and resources to other companies interested in participating in the course. The teams will present the results of their projects at the Student Industrial Ecology Conference.

A Device with Remote Activation and Remote Power

University of Pittsburgh, 1998 - $10,800

This E-Team developed Powercast, technology that powers small electronic devices by electricity broadcast through the air. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device's battery at a distance of up to three feet.

Markets abound for Powercast, ranging from cell phones to lighting to pacemakers and defibrillators. The team has partnered with electronics giant Philips, and recently won Best of Show at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Exposition in Las Vegas.

Wheelchair-Mounted Pelvic Restraint

University of Pittsburgh, 2005 - $15,250

Wheelchair-bound individuals frequently use minivans, para-transit vans, public transportation and private vehicles as means of transportation. While their wheelchairs are usually tied down to prevent them from moving during normal driving conditions or in the event of an accident, the individual relies mainly on a nylon safety belt system (similar to a conventional seat belt) that is both unwieldy and frequently disused. This E-Team developed a rigid restraint system mounted to the user’s wheelchair, securing the occupant in position at the level of the pelvis. The restraint is composed of two halves of a mechanical, rigid, padded bar attached to the side of the wheelchair. A ratchet system fits into place around the user’s pelvis, and a spring-loaded release lever allows the user to unlock the restraint from either side of the wheelchair.

Blink Right for Healthy Eyes

University of Pittsburgh, 2002 - $12,150

Each year, approximately 140,000 patients are affected by deficit of the seventh cranial nerve, which provides signals for the facial expression muscles for one side of the face. Of these patients, about half are unlikely to recover, and many sustain permanent damage to the eye. Current treatments for this disorder include sewing the eyelids together, connecting other nerves to the facial nerve, and implanting gold weights into the upper eyelid. Unfortunately, these treatments can disfigure patients and do not restore dynamic restoration of blinking.

This E-Team is developing a prosthetic device to facilitate blinking in patients suffering from facial nerve palsy. The device will consist of a number of tiny silicon chips that act as both actuators and sensors. The devices will be implanted in upper eyelids, and function as sensors on the unaffected side to pace the actuators on the affected side. The dual sensing/actuating nature of the system will allow the device to sense any recovery of the nerve on the affected side and calibrate itself accordingly. Power is provided to the chips by a device contained on prosthetic eyeglasses with a powering antenna wound in the lens holders, and a battery in the earpieces.

Wee Know Child Loss Prevention System

University of Pittsburgh - $15900.00

Child loss is a real fear for child caregivers in today’s society. In 2001, the police received 2,000 lost-child cases. Although the majority of these children were recovered within hours, time spent finding the child meant time spent keeping the family in distress. To deter this problem, this E-Team developed Wee Know, a child loss prevention system.

Wee Know consists of two wireless communication devices: one for the child and one for the caretaker. The child’s device, about the size of a wristwatch, attaches to the child’s wrist; the adult’s device resembles a pager. The devices consist of integrated circuits (ICs) that handle all functions of the system, utilizing radio frequency (RF) for communication. The team’s current prototype integrates a RF transmitter and receiver produced by Linx Technologies. To ensure the correct signal passes between the child and caretaker devices, the communication signal must be encoded. Encoding distinguishes the RF signal from other signals that could cause interference. If the child and adult devices get too far away to properly communicate, an alarm signals.

The Wee Know E-Team consists of four undergraduate students in computer, electrical and mechanical engineering. They work with two faculty members in electrical engineering, and a business advisor from the Wesley J. Howe School of Technology Management.

Creation of an E-Team Prototyping Service Center

University of Pittsburgh - 17500.00

A New initiative Grant Title Creation of an E-Team Prototyping Service Center Institution: University of Pittsburgh Grant # 462-01 PI Michael Lovell Budget Item $ Approved Web development 1,000.00 Prototyping services 3,500.00 Brochures and publicity 500.00 Total $5,000.00

An E-Team to Design a Very Low Power Network


United States
41° 12' 11.9592" N, 77° 11' 40.29" W

University of Pittsburgh - $12500.00

This E-Team developed a prototype for a system that establishes a network of wireless devices within a small area using very low power and RF radio transmission. The transmission distances may range from a few inches to a few meters.

Communication over short distances with very low power creates a wide array of new applications of RF technology. The applications for this technology are diverse, ranging from wireless patient monitoring devices to food safety monitoring for the meat industry. The technology originated in a funded E-Team course EE1185, Microprocessor Systems.

The E-Team plans to develop a prototype and perform a market study on the device. Members of the E-Team are computer and electrical engineering students.

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.

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