New Jersey Institute of Technology, 2011 - $29,500
This grant supports the development of a new four-year research, design and entrepreneurship program for undergraduate honors students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The program, Interdisciplinary Design Studio (IDS), will recruit high-achieving honors students from all disciplines during their freshman year. They will form into multidisciplinary teams and develop innovative solutions in specific theme areas, including point-of-care healthcare technologies, sustainable infrastructure and architecture, green energy, and smart transportation systems.
IDS teams will also develop business, marketing and financial plans and will each be paired with a corporate partner. Projects will be further explored for incubation and potential commercialization through the NJIT Enterprise Development Center.
In higher education today, courses in business planning are typically taught only in business schools and are focused on US-based for-profit ventures, rarely catering to the different challenges and dynamics encountered with social entrepreneurship endeavors. This course, developed initially with a spring 2010 NCIIA Course & Program planning grant, is dedicated to business planning for social ventures in the US and abroad. The course will cover the fundamental concepts of social entrepreneurship and use diverse case studies and experiential learning activities to help students develop an understanding of social problems and devise innovative solutions to address them.
The goal for this course is to eventually become a required class for the restructured certificate program in the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program at Penn State. HESE is leading several international technology-based social ventures, including infrastructure development, telemedicine, cell phone-based social networking, and a three-year degree program to train entrepreneurial secondary school science teachers.
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.
Submitted by NCIIA Guest on Thu, 02/18/2010 - 10:29
Over the past two years the Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries (WDDC) class has provided an opportunity for MIT students to use their technical skills to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the developing world. The class focuses on bettering the lives of others by improving wheelchairs and tricycles in the developing world.
A nonprofit organization has recently sprung from this project. Worldwide Mobility (WM) is an organization that was started in the class. The aim of WM is to channel donated funds directly to wheelchair organizations in developing countries. “The motivation behind this project,” says Amos Winter, primary investigator of the project, “Is to compete with low-quality donated wheelchairs and to support the organizations that would not otherwise have access to foreign donors. “
For the past two years, The Center for Bioengineering Design, a Course and Program Grant-funded initiative at Johns Hopkins University, has provided bioengineering graduate students the tools and support to develop new medical devices.
One of the Center’s team design projects was recently given a licensing deal with Seguro Surgical, a Maryland company specializing in the commercialization of surgical instrumentation.
“SeguroSurgical’s…product line (the Lap-Pak) was borne out of one of our design team projects,” says instructor Robert Allen. The Lap-Pak is a device that cleanly and quickly repositions the bowel during a surgery.
In 2002, NCIIA supported the creation of Assistive Technology Devices, a two-semester course at the University of Rhode Island. Within the course, interdisciplinary teams of engineering and business students create a novel assistive technology device aimed at the community abroad. Teams work through the entrepreneurial process of product design and commercialization and present the results to a group of businessmen and engineering alumni. The course has impressed faculty around campus, and URI is soon to offer a university-wide course based on the sequence.
Program structure and goals Assistive Technology Devices is a two-course sequence in which multidisciplinary E-Teams comprised of undergraduate senior engineering and business students design, prototype and attempt to commercialize assistive technology devices.
At the beginning of the fall semester, faculty members from two engineering departments and the college of business administration offer a list of general topics to student teams. The topics come from problems suggested by the Slater Hospital, special-education schools, nursing homes, and physical therapy centers. A broad range of assistive technology issues are addressed:
Teams are asked to:
Propose a novel device from one of the general topics, or propose their own.
Perform patent searches and a marketing study to help them design products that have a good chance of commercialization.
Come up with a detailed product design, making realistic estimates of manufacturing cost.
At the end of the first semester, teams submit a proposal that includes a short business plan, a design, a budget and a plan to build a working prototype. Through a competitive process, extra funding is awarded to the teams whose products have the best chance at commercialization. This money supports their work in the following semester in building prototypes, creating more detailed business plans, and seeking commercialization opportunities. At the end of the spring semester, all teams make presentations detailing the results of their development and commercialization efforts to a group of businessmen and engineering alumni, with the idea of attracting further support for the teams’ activities.
The overall goal of the program is to give participating students first-hand experience in the entrepreneurial process, with a focus on socially beneficial assistive devices. This process includes:
Setting high goals
Performing a marketing study
Writing a business plan
Seeking commercialization opportunities
History and context Since 2000, the Assistive Technology Laboratory at URI and the Slater Internship program have involved students in the research and development of assistive technology devices for use in the Rhode Island Slater Hospital. The patient population at the Slater Hospital consists mostly of quadriplegic, paraplegic and cerebral palsy patients. Examples of student-developed devices are:
A single-switch environmental control unit
A voice-activated environmental control unit
A voice-activated nurse call bell
An ultrasonic remote door control
Wearable ability switches
Multi-port sip-and-puff switches
Over time, engineering faculty members at URI realized that, while certainly valuable, the Slater Internship program was limited in scope because the student-developed devices were aimed only at hospital settings. Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Musa Jouaneh re-developed the Assistive Technology Devices sequence to take the student innovations out of the hospital and apply them to the community at large. Says Dr. Jouaneh, “We wanted to open the program up to address the needs not only of the severely disabled, but also the elderly and moderately disabled individuals in the community at large.”
“Assistive device technology for everyday people in the community is not an area addressed much in industry. We wanted to come up with a way to help these people.”
E-Teams E-Teams are required to be multidisciplinary, and must have engineers from at least two different engineering departments and one to two business students. In the first year of the course, four E-Teams formed from twenty-one students; in the second year, five teams formed from thirty-two students. Of those nine teams, four applied for Advanced E-Team funding, and though none were approved, one is resubmitting.
Innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes Some examples of innovative assistive technology devices the E-Teams have developed are:
Self-lowering shelf assembly
Easy window opener
Improved manual wheelchair drive system
Thus far none of the E-Teams have successfully commercialized their product, but the team developing the automatic page-turner is headed in that direction.
Challenges and lessons learned One of the primary difficulties faced in the sequence is getting students from different disciplines to communicate and work as a team. Says Dr. Jouaneh, “Engineering students bring a different perspective to the table than management or marketing students. Reconciling the two and ensuring effective communication between team members can be a challenge.”
A second challenge arises from the less structured, open-ended nature of the sequence. “It’s a different type of course,” says Dr. Jouaneh. “In a lot of courses, the goals are very clear and the course structure is rigid. In Assistive Technology Devices, it’s up to the students to create their own opportunities. Some students struggle with that.”
Future prospects The innovative approach of the Assistive Technology Devices has impressed faculty around campus, and URI is soon to offer a university-wide course similar to the sequence. The sequence itself continues to grow and develop.
Most conferences feature a great deal of talk and little real-world action. But the third annual International Design and Development Summit (IDDS), funded by an NCIIA Course and Program grant and organized by MIT, does things the other way around, concentrating on hands-on work to develop real solutions to developing-world problems - in a limited amount of time. Lots of action, not so much talk. Find out what happened at the summit. And read more about IDDS.